Politics & Government

EPA sued by Kentucky Governor Beshear, coal industry

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's administration and coal industry representatives have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over coal mining permits.

The Kentucky Coal Association, in a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Pikeville, said the EPA's blocking of state-issued permits over water pollution standards put forth in an April memo amount to the executive branch taking legislative action and an improper deviation from the Clean Water Act of 1977.

Blocking state-issued permits is part of an "illegal agenda to end coal mining in Kentucky," Kentucky Coal Association president Bill Bissett said in an e-mail to the state Legislative Research Commission. "This EPA continues to act without any consideration for the law, so it is our hope that the federal court system will find that the EPA's actions are being made based on political ideology alone, with no connection to actually protecting the environment."

The governor of West Virginia filed a similar suit this month.

Beshear directed the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, part of which enforces the Clean Water Act and other environmental protection laws and part of which permits and regulates coal mining, to join the industry lawsuit.

"Kentucky can and does mine coal while at the same time protecting Kentucky's environment," Beshear said in a news release. "However, the arbitrary and unreasonable decisions being made by the EPA threaten to end the responsible mining of coal and eliminate the jobs of an estimated 18,000 Kentucky miners who depend on mining for their livelihood."

According to federal Department of Energy numbers, Kentucky coal production dropped by about 11 percent from 2008 to 2009, and the number of mine employees dropped by less than 1 percent. That corresponded with a 14 percent increase in the price of Kentucky coal on the open market, according to the Department of Energy.

To read the complete article, visit www.kentucky.com.

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