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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Romney Energy Policy Would Heavily Back Coal Industry

In an editorial published in the Columbus Dispatch on Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney outlined his energy policy that includes a resounding endorsement of the coal industry.

Last year, if you recall, the former Massachusetts governor first visited Kentucky for a fundraiser hosted by coal company owner Joe Craft, an influential political player who is known as the “face of coal” in the commonwealth. Romney also named Craft one of his campaign’s Kentucky State Finance Chairs.

Romney says he will modernize the federal government’s “outdated” environmental laws and stop what he calls Environmental Protection Agency’s practice of “imaginary benefits to justify onerous burdens.”

“In my administration, coal will not be a four-letter word. Instead, we will applaud the industry’s success in consistently expanding electricity output while reducing pollution,” he says. “And I will respect states’ proven ability to regulate fracking, rather than sending federal bureaucrats to take control.”

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Here and Now

Obama Calls For New ‘Square Deal’, Super PACs Will Likely Spend $1 Billion on 2012 Election, Pike County Community Sues Coal Company for Flood Damage: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm President Barack Obama is making a pitch to middle-class voters today in Kansas, talking about his proposed payroll tax cut and his plan to extend unemployment benefits.

1:11pm We are likely to see as much as a billion dollars spent by Super PACs to determine the outcome of the 2012 elections. These Super PACs are pretty new, but they have a lot of power and they can raise plenty of money. We’ll talk about their impact on the elections.

1:34pm Residents in an Eastern Kentucky town are suing the coal company after flooding wiped out their town. WFPL’s Erica Peterson joins us to explain.

1:49pm There are plenty of book apps for beginning and young adult readers, but not much for the ‘tween crowd. One librarian says she doesn’t think book apps will replace actual books for the youngest readers, but they might lure them to real books. Mary Ann Scheuer, librarian at the Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley, CA, writes the “Great Kid Books” blog.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Romney Appearing in Kentucky for Fundraiser

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is scheduled to vist in Kentucky on November 17 to attend a fundraiser hosted by an influential businessman who is known as the “face of coal” in the commonwealth.

The big-ticket event will be the former governor of Massachusetts’ first stop in the commonwealth during his 2012 bid for the GOP nomination to challenge President Obama.

From Pure Politics:

Romney … will appear at an evening reception at the Kentucky Aviation Museum in Lexington hosted by coal company owner Joe Craft and Republican fundraiser Kelly Knight, according to a save-the-date card for the event.

Individuals who raise at least $10,000 for Romney’s campaign qualify for a “host committee reception” with the candidate. Those who give the federal maximum of $2,500 — or $5,000 for a couple — get their picture taken with Romney at a “VIP photo reception.” And those who give $1,000 — or $2,000 per couple — can attend the general reception.

The former governor of Massachusetts has already made waves in the commonwealth for receiving the endorsement of Republican Congressmen Hal Rogers and Ed Whitefield.

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Local News

Afternoon Review: Race-Based Discrimination in the Coal Industry, Fischer Promotes Obama’s Jobs Plan, Beshear Criticized for Skipping Debates, and a Landmark Returns to 4th Street

The federal government has filed a lawsuit on behalf of thirteen Kentucky coal miners who say they were discriminated against over their race. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit earlier this week in the Western District of Kentucky against River View Coal.

Addressing local unemployment and the city’s infrastructure needs, Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer is part of an official White House video campaign promoting President Obama’s jobs plan. Fischer joined the mayors of Los Angeles, Baltimore, Denver and Cincinnati, who are all promoting the American Jobs Act.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says he’s reaching out to members of Congress, asking them to revisit the federal Do Not Call Act. A federal judge in Indianapolis ruled this week that the state cannot prohibit the often automated political calls made from out of state, but can still bar in-state calls.

The commuter ferry transporting residents between Southern Indiana and Louisville will shut down soon if more riders don’t take advantage of the $1 rides. The 300 passenger steamboat will operate as a ferry for at least two more weeks, said Linda Harris, CEO of the Spirit of Jefferson. At that point, Harris will decide whether to continue the service. She expects to make her decision after the Sherman Minton Bridge is fully inspected, she said.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is being criticized by political opponents and the press on the campaign trail this week. The Ohio-based group Restoring America has released three ads in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams with two slamming Beshear for job losses and not taking a position on busing in Jefferson County Public Schools. The governor is also being heavily criticized by political observers in the media for either skipping debates with his opponents or turning down opportunities to discuss the race in general.

The iconic Louisville Clock may soon be moved to Theater Square downtown.
Renovations to accommodate the clock at 4th Street and Broadway began this week. The relocation isn’t guaranteed, but if the clock is moved, it must be in place before the winter. It’s expected to be functional again next spring.

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Local News State of the News

EPA Tours Eastern Kentucky: State of the News

WFPL environment reporter Erica Peterson tagged along with two EPA officials this past week as they toured Eastern Kentucky meeting with residents of communities affected by coal mining.   Region Four administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming and senior advisor for environmental justice Lisa Garcia of EPA heard from several residents and members of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth who are not happy with how mining has changed their towns and their lives. The head of the group Coal Operators Associates criticized the trip as being one-sided and not open to coal industry supporters.

Peterson phoned in to talk with reporter Rick Howlett on Friday, Aug. 19, during State of the News.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Paul Denounces EPA for Coal Miners’ Week

While officials from the Environmental Protection Agency tour eastern Kentucky to asses the effect of coal mining on residents, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., denounced the agency as an “out of control” bureaucracy that is waging a war the industry.

For most of this week, WFPL Environment Reporter Erica Peterson has been following EPA officials around the state. Contrary to the rhetoric of politicians on both sides of the aisle in Kentucky, she reports residents are thrilled to see federal officials in their communities and want more regulations.

Coincidentally it also happens to be  Coal Miners’ Appreciation Week, which Paul issued a statement Thursday in recognition of while scolding the federal agency.

From Paul’s office:

“Coal is a vital sector of Kentucky’s economy. More than 200,000 jobs in the commonwealth depend on it, including the jobs of about 18,000 coal miners. America’s coal miners produce the fuel for nearly half our nation’s electricity needs.

Yet, the out-of-control EPA has waged a war on coal and the families whose livelihoods depend upon it. Washington’s bureaucratic regulations and excessive taxation have sought to limit our energy choices and kill even more jobs during this recession.

As a defender of the free market and of coal, I will continue to fight back against the EPA and any other federal agency whose goal is to stifle coal production. I will continue to stand up for our miners in Washington as we continue to recognize the sacrifices they make to provide food for their families and energy for America.”

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Environment Local News

Checking in With Erica Peterson in Eastern Kentucky

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.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Conservationist Says Beshear Wrong About “War on Coal”

Responding to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s claim that the federal government is the reason for rising utility bills, the director of the Kentucky Resources Council says the governor should strive to lower electricity consumption instead of blaming regulators.

Last month, Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ announced a rate increase up to 19 percent. The governor said the hikes were due to the “federal government’s war on coal,” which has been the administration’s favorite talking point and defense of the state’s coal industry in recent months.

In an editorial sent to the Lexington Herald-Leader, conservationist Tom Fitzgerald tells Beshear to get his facts straight on the myriad of pollutants covered in the Clean Air Act and to push for greener energy sources and initiatives.

From the Herald-Leader:

The rising costs of coal-fired electricity in part reflect the internalization of costs that have been historically paid by the most vulnerable of Kentucky’s citizens in premature death, respiratory and pulmonary disease and other exposure-related health problems. For more information on the consequences of breathing these pollutants, visit www.epa.gov/air/airpollutants.html.

The Beshear administration should bear in mind that there is no right, under federal or state law, for a utility to use the public’s air to disperse and dispose of wastes from energy production — only a limited privilege to emit under standards designed to prevent respiratory and other illness and premature deaths. If the administration believes that the health science does not support the standards, it is free to challenge the underlying science.

In previous statements, Beshear has said his administration has invested in renewable energy and other conservation measures, but face unfair mandates from the federal government.

The governor’s office has not returned our request for comment.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Marks Earth Week in Kentucky

Declaring that few places compare to Kentucky’s natural beauty in the springtime, Gov. Steve Beshear proclaimed April 16-22, 2011 as Earth Week in the commonwealth.

This year’s theme is “Playground Earth: Get Outside, Kentucky!”. In response, the Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) plans to sponsor its first environmental photography contest for middle school students in an effort to get people outdoors.

“Research confirms that children who spend time outdoors are healthier and perform better in school,” Beshear said in a news release. “The commonwealth is blessed with natural settings that encourage exploration and provide opportunities for families to connect with nature and to get outside. I encourage Kentucky families to explore the outdoors, develop an appreciation for our state’s natural resources and become stewards of our environment.”

The governor’s sketchy environmental record, however, has been a source of ridicule among local bloggers and activists opposed to mountaintop mining in the state. The Earth Week announcement is likely to go under the news radar, but could  turn into another round of criticism that his administration is backing the coal industry in the face of the environmental concerns of Kentucky residents.

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Environment Local News Politics

EPA Holds Coal Ash Hearing In Louisville

Representatives of the coal industry, environmental groups, religious organizations and others gathered at Louisville’s Seelbach Hotel Tuesday for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency public hearing on the proposed federal regulation of coal ash.

The substance, a byproduct of coal burning, mostly at power plants, is currently regulated by states.

The EPA is gathering input on two regulatory proposals, the more stringent of which would classify coal ash as hazardous material.

Among those testifying against the tougher rules was longtime coal industry worker Bill Disney. He says too much regulation will derail efforts to recycle coal ash.

“The fact remains that the coal industry is safer than ever, the air in Kentucky is cleaner than any other time in our lifetime. The thinly veiled attacks on the fossil fuels industry are not based on science,” he said.

Environmental groups say coal ash, which contains toxic heavy metals, is a public health hazard that needs to be placed under stricter controls.

Aloma Dew of Owensboro spoke on behalf of the Sierra Club:

“Our children’s health is far more important than the profit margin of industries that pile up this toxic waste. It’s time to get the arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium and other toxic chemicals away from our drinking water sources, away from the air our children breathe and the areas where they live and play,” she said.

Greenpeace made its position known in a dramatic way. Two rapellers unfrurled a giant banner on the front of the Seelbach Hotel (pictured at top), where the hearing was held. They were later taken into police custody and the banner was removed.                          

The daylong hearing was the seventh to be held across the country. The eighth and final hearing will be held in Knoxville, Tennessee, near the site of a massive coal waste spill two years ago.