Judges are considering a coal company’s appeal of a state decision that places restrictions on surface mining in an area of Floyd County. The case was heard by the Franklin County Court of Appeals ten days ago.
Several years ago, Beverly May spearheaded a petition asking the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet to declare the area around Wilson Creek in Floyd County unsuitable for mining. The petition was denied, but Cabinet Secretary Len Peters put certain restrictions on mining in the area.
Environmental scientist Richard Wahrer says the state feels the concessions are reasonable.
“We have allowed mining in the area,” he said. “But if you do mine, you have to abide by the conditions that are set. It’s not a question of we are preventing mining from happening in the area.”
The case is unusual because the residents of Wilson Creek—May and her neighbors—thought the concessions were reasonable too, even though their petition was rejected.
“The protections that they offered, particularly that they would require the land would be put back in its approximate original contour, that is the law,” May said. “What the cabinet does over and over and over is gives exceptions to the law. And what they promised to do is simply not give a waiver.”
Other restrictions include requiring the coal company to reclaim the land with native trees, and blocking the use of a local one-lane road by coal trucks.
Laurel Mountain Resources, a subsidiary of James River Coal, has appealed the cabinet’s decision three times. If the Franklin County appeals court upholds the decision, the coal company can ask it to reconsider, or try to get the case heard by the state Supreme Court.
A spokesperson for James River Coal didn’t return repeated calls for comment for this story.