(Editor’s note: Due to reporter error, Don Gibson of Pike County Coal Corp. was misidentified in the original post. That section of the post has been removed.)
By Curtis Morrison
If Gov. Steve Beshear thought getting expanded gaming passed in Kentucky was tough, he probably really regrets taking on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
For the vast majority of the coal industry’s water pollution discharge permits, there is a simplified process called the General Coal Permit.
This process allows the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet to by-pass the federal EPA altogether.
Since 2009, Kentucky has authorized 2,500 water pollution discharges for coal-related operations, and the EPA can do nothing about those.But during the last two years, there were 151 discharge permits ineligible for General Coal Permits, either because the planned discharge of pollutants were within five miles of public water intake locations, or the receiving streams were already heavily polluted.
These permits are called National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, and the EPA gets a say in them.
Stop a minute. What?
Let me restate: The only time an NPDES permit is required is Beshear’s when own Energy and Environment Cabinet is in danger of allowing a coal company to discharge poison into our own drinking water directly, or when we’re taking a really polluted river and making it more polluted.
Since 2009, only 36 of those 151 NPDES permits have objections from the EPA, and that’s why Beshear made his famous childish rant over a year ago for the EPA to “Get off our backs!”
Beshear asked the EPA to conduct hearings in Kentucky on their objections. The EPA agreed to host two and they were held this week in Frankfort on Tuesday and Pikeville on Thursday. Beshear surely hoped these hearings would manifest political pressure for the coal industry.
It didn’t go down as Beshear planned, though for reasons pertaining to the hearings themselves, but also to external factors Beshear’s Cabinet of Subverting the Public Will just wasn’t sophisticated enough to anticipate:
Let’s itemize what went wrong this week for Beshear’s Pro-COAL master plan:
TUESDAY, JUNE 5:
- At the EPA hearing in Frankfort, signs the Pro-Coal forces had planned on bringing in had to be forfeited at the door. And uncivilized pro-coal heckler continuously interrupted the Sierra Club’s Wallace McMullen, the EPA stopped the hearing and she was removed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wF7Tc1fhjqs
- Representative Joni Jenkins (Louisville) broke ranks with her fellow Kentucky legislators and spoke at the hearing in support of the EPA.
- Venus passed between Earth and the Sun. No doubt, coal lovers did some head scratching over this. Probably the worst day to dismiss the power of solar energy is the day when everyone’s talking about how Venus has only 3 percent of the Sun’s diameter. Tough break, Steve.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6
- The Kentucky Association of Counties (KAoC) tried to get a bunch of ancient white men, also known as Kentucky’s County Judge Executives, to issue 100 or so identical ALEC-like, model resolutions saying roughly Coal good, Obama and Clean Water Bad. It must have been mid-morning on Thursday when the puzzled KAoC staff realized why they had not received any resolutions back.
An urgent second email was sent out instructing the Judges to email their resolutions directly to Lashae Kittinger, who is the Public Policy Manager at the Lexington PR firm of Preston-Osbourne. The Faces of Coal campaign … yeah, that’s Preston-Osbourne. (Louisville Courant: Kentucky Association of Counties overcoming technical difficulties…)
- A bunch of tree hugging hippies tried to visit members of Congress in their D.C. offices. The crew hoped to discuss ending Mountaintop Removal by convincing legislators to support a bill, H.R. 1375, that would restore the Clean Water Act to President Richard Nixon’s original intent before President George Bush butchered it. Harrison Kirby, a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and member of that bunch, starts his overview of how that started out like this:
“We aren’t evil, I promise,” said the evil congressman’s intern after he said he couldn’t help stop mountaintop removal coal mining. If you ever become a congressional intern and you find yourself in a situation where you must clarify that you are not in fact a villain, you are probably doing something wrong.” (It’s Getting Hot In Here: From Kentucky to DC)
By the end of the day, 22 people were arrested for not leaving the offices of congress members who refused to speak to them about H.R. 1375. Much to Beshear’s dismay, they’re back on the streets already. (Appalachia Rising)
(Related: After recently hearing testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Republican members of that Committee had West Virginia anti-MTR activist Maria Gunnoe questioned by Capitol police about child pornography for showing them this picture.)
- 350.org chose Wednesday to launch their citizen-powered survey to get every member of Congress on record on fossil fuel subsidies. (endfossilfuelsubsidies.org/scoreboard)
“If students need government loans to help them get bachelor’s degrees, that’s sound policy. But if they want loans to get their 11th bachelor of arts, they should pay themselves. We learned how to burn coal 300 years ago. A subsidized fossil-fuel industry is the equivalent of a 19-year-old repeating third grade yet again.”- Bill McKibben, 350.org founder (LA Times: Fossil-fuel subsidies: Helping the richest get richer)
- Oh, and another seven people shaved their heads to protest Mountaintop Removal, adding to the 20 who had already done so on Memorial day. (Appalachia Rising)
THURSDAY, JUNE 7:
- The last EPA Hearing on the 36 objections was held in Pikeville. According to the EPA, roughly 80 people submitted their public comment orally at that hearing. Like Tuesday’s hearing, there was some ridiculous rhetoric, but Kentucky House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins will probably win the coal-colored cake:
Last week, in the battle of Beshear vs. Planet Earth, Beshear actually won.
The Governor signed House Bill 559, allowing nuclear-related industries to exist in Kentucky “as long as electricity generation is not the primary output of their processes.”
Of course, electricity generation is NEVER the primary output of the nuclear industry, but the thousands of years of human-killing radioactive contamination that we can’t make go away.
By signing Bill 559, Beshear has opened the way for Kentucky up to be a leader in probably the only jobs more dangerous than coal jobs:
“…re-enrichment of depleted nuclear tails, recycling or reprocessing of spent nuclear fuels; and the processing of metals contaminated with radioactive materials.” (surfky.com)
Those still wishing to give their input to the EPA on the 36 objections may do so online or by mail until June 21, 2012. Comments can be emailed to ow-docket(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)epa.gov?subject=Docket%20ID%3A%20EPA-HQ-OW-2012-0315
Put “Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OW-2012-0315” in the subject line.
Comments can be mailed to Water Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OW-2012-0315, US EPA, Mail Code 2822-1T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington DC 20460.