By RONNIE ELLIS
Environmentalists are calling a proposed agreement between the Energy and Environment Cabinet and a coal company over pollution violations a “backroom deal,” negotiated without the involvement of the environmentalists who first brought the company’s violations to light.
In 2010, several environmental groups discovered numerous alleged violations of the Clean Water Act by two coal companies, Frasure Creek Mining and ICG Mining, and threatened to sue both in federal court.
The cabinet conducted its own investigation of the charges and agreed to settlements with both companies which it sought to have entered in Franklin Circuit Court.
The environmentalists objected and Judge Phillip Shepherd allowed them to intervene, urging all the parties to negotiate a settlement. ICG reached an agreement with the cabinet and environmentalists but Frasure Creek said it faced financial reversals which made it impossible for them to pay proposed civil penalties or agree to terms with the environmental groups.
Its attorneys said the company suspended mining operations in Kentucky and is in the process of liquidating equipment and financially restructuring.
That case continues in Franklin Circuit but the environmentalists and the cabinet alleged Frasure Creek committed additional violations which occurred subsequent to the Franklin Circuit Court action.
The cabinet took those violations to an internal Administrative Hearing Officer rather than Franklin Circuit Court. The cabinet’s hearing officer granted the environmental groups — Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance and several private citizens — intervener status.
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