Four coal companies settle Kentucky flood suit

Four coal companies have settled a lawsuit by 91 residents along Quicksand Creek in Breathitt County, Ky., who claimed poor reclamation of surface mines exacerbated flooding after heavy rains in May 2009.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, said the plaintiffs' attorney Ned Pillersdorf, but others called the settlement groundbreaking for Kentucky.

The bulk of the evidence was a study done for the plaintiffs by a Virginia engineering firm. A model of the current topography of the Quicksand Creek watershed was compared with the watershed if no mining had been done. The study found that peak flows in the creek increased 77 percent to 81 percent during a rain like the soaking that occurred May 8 and 9, 2009.

Two of the companies, Miller Brothers Coal and Appalachian Fuels, are in bankruptcy, so much of the negotiation was done with insurance companies, Pillersdorf said. The other defendants are Lexington Coal and ICG. Phone numbers were disconnected Thursday at Appalachian Fuels, which previously employed state Rep. Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, and whose parent Energy Coal Resources pays state Rep. Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, to sit on its board of directors. A phone message at Lexington Coal was not immediately returned. Miller Brothers' property has since been purchased by Laurel Mountain Resources, which was not named in the lawsuit.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed in Breathitt County during the flood, and emergencies were declared in several Eastern Kentucky counties, including Pike, Magoffin, Floyd and Owsley

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