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Environment Local News

EPA Responds to Beshear’s Letter

This morning, the Environmental Protection Agency responded to an email asking for comments on a letter Governor Steve Beshear sent to President Barack Obama earlier this week.

In an interview, Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters expressed frustration with the EPA’s requirements for permits. He says Kentucky worked with the regional EPA on a template for future permits and came to an agreement, but the deal was rejected by the EPA headquarters.

In the response, the EPA didn’t respond directly to a question about why the agreed-upon template was rejected. In the statement, the agency said:

 

“EPA appreciates the State of Kentucky’s efforts to work with us to reduce water pollution and public health impacts from coal mining that impact waters used for drinking, fishing, swimming, among other recreational activities.  We have made significant progress with the State of Kentucky in identifying improvements to mining permits that are consistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and emerging science.  As we have done in the past, EPA continues to be willing to reach common sense agreements to mine coal while avoiding permanent environmental impacts and protecting water quality. The EPA’s number one priority is to protect the health of all Americans and to allow the people of Kentucky and other states the choice of both healthy waters and a healthy economy.”

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Environment Local News

More Federal Oversight of Surface Mines Proposed

The federal Office of Surface Mining has announced its proposals for strengthening oversight of strip mining to protect the environment in Appalachian coal states.  One proposal is to conduct so-called “independent” inspections of state-permitted mines.  Kentucky Mine Reclamation and Enforcement director Jim Dickinson says the announcement wasn’t a surprise, but it lacked clarity.

“Not taken by surprise so much as there’s just some verbiage in here that’s new to us, and as I said we’re going to be looking forward to seeing what they have to say about that and we’re going to be discussing it further,” says Dickinson.

State regulators, coal mining companies, and environmental groups have also been waiting for the OSM to announce changes to the so-called “stream buffer” rule.  It currently allows mine operators to place debris from mining operations into nearby valleys and streams.  The OSM says it will work to protect streams while the new rule is being developed.  But those plans are still on the drafting table.

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Local News

Surge in New Residential Construction Permits in Cities

Some metropolitan communities may be attracting more residents from the suburbs and rural areas.  That’s according to a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency’s John Thomas.

“The real central question here is when you look at the whole central metropolitan area, is there a change in the share of that new residential construction happening downtown relative to the suburban counties, and that’s what I was finding.  And again, it’s not universal is I think one of the other interesting take home messages,” says Thomas.

The trend is most pronounced among the coastal cities as well as in Chicago and Atlanta.  But metro areas like Louisville and other Midwestern cities are not seeing their share of downtown residential developments jump dramatically.  Thomas says the reasons could be anything from lack of development money to the need to rezone a property.