Environmental Groups Petition to Overturn “Inadequate” Coal Settlement

by Erica Peterson on December 9, 2011

Environmental groups are protesting a settlement agreement reached between the commonwealth and a coal company over water pollution. The groups say the penalty is inappropriate for the amount of pollution the company released into Kentucky waterways.

The environmental groups sued Nally and Hamilton for falsifying its discharge reports earlier this year, then joined the state’s suit as interveners.

When the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet proposed a $500,000 settlement with Nally and Hamilton for thousands of alleged violations of the Clean Water Act in September, the groups faulted the cabinet for not including them in settlement negotiations.

Now, Cabinet Secretary Len Peters has signed off on the agreement, and the groups are appealing the decision in circuit court.

Eric Chance is with Appalachian Voices, one of the groups involved.

“Basically the cabinet hasn’t done any analysis to see if the agreed deal’s fines are high enough to deter Nally and Hamilton from doing this again,” he said. “We don’t believe they’ve done any sort of analysis to see how much the company benefited economically from doing this.”

Cabinet spokesman Dick Brown says the complaint lacks merit.

“The cabinet was in the process of reviewing the discharge monitoring reports months before the interveners filed their notice of intent to sue the coal company,” he said. “The interveners were part of the process, the proposed order was posted for public comment which the interveners did supply and was made part of that record.”

The petition asks the judge to vacate the settlement agreement, and require the Cabinet to produce another order with evidentiary support.

Click here to read the petition.

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