Checking in With Erica Peterson in Eastern Kentucky

by Gabe Bullard on August 18, 2011

WFPL Environment Reporter Erica Peterson is in eastern Kentucky. She’s following Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming and senior advisor for environmental justice Lisa Garcia as they tour communities affected by coal mining.

Today, she called the newsroom with updates on her trip. From Erica:

The first stop was in Manchester. There’s a woman named Sandy Minton who showed the EPA her house. She lives right next to a coal processing plant and says the processing plant is in violation of their permit and the dust is causing a hazard for her as well as her entire family. Later on, we’re headed to Vicco to meet with community members who are concerned about a mine permit near their homes.

We heard from a woman who just graduated high school here. She’s going to community college. She wants to find a way to stay here but doesn’t see a future for her community. A lot of people talked about concerns with poison water, dust and houses that shake when the blasting happens.

Judging by the rhetoric at this year’s Fancy Farm, the EPA is Kentucky politicians’ least-favorite federal agency. Democratic Governor Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway have fought tighter regulations on the coal industry. Their Republican challenges in the fall election say they’re even stronger supporters of coal. But Erica says there’s a disconnect between the rhetoric and reality.

People have been, first of all, absolutely thrilled that the EPA are here. They’ve been telling them that even though our politicians might be trying to shut the EPA down and saying ‘get off our backs,’ they want them on their backs. The future of their communities, they say, is up to the EPA enforcing and protecting the environment.

Erica will keep checking in from her trip. You can hear her updates regularly on the air. She’ll also join us for State of the News Friday at 1:00.

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