Kentucky Coal Company Falsifies More Water Monitoring Data, Advocates Allege

Cross-posted from Appalachian Voices

Coalition To Sue Mining Company In Latest Revelation of a Pattern of Violations

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Contacts: Donna Lisenby, Appalachian Voices, 704-277-6055, donna@appvoices.org
Suzanne Struglinski, NRDC, 202-289-2387, sstruglinski@nrdc.org
Suzanne Tallichet, KFTC, 606-776-7970, suetallichet@windstream.net
Pat Banks, Kentucky Riverkeeper, 859-622-3065, kyriverkeeper@eku.edu
Heath Fradkoff, Goodman Media for Waterkeeper Alliance, 212-576-2700, hfradkoff@goodmanmedia.com
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EASTERN KENTUCKY (August 23, 2011)— Newly discovered information suggests that coal company Nally and Hamilton has filed even more false – and potentially fraudulent – water pollution monitoring data with state agencies than previously believed, according to a coalition of clean water advocates. As a result, residents of Kentucky do not know how badly polluted their water is.

Based on a review of state water monitoring reports, the coalition identified more than 5,000 additional violations of the Clean Water Act on top of the 12,000 violations previously discovered in March. Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance today sent Nally and Hamilton a 60-day notice of intent to sue the company over these additional Clean Water Act violations with potential penalties of more than $180 million.

“The undeniable pattern of coal companies blatantly disregarding the law in Kentucky is nothing new to our coalfield citizens,” said Suzanne Tallichet with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. “Their ongoing pollution of the rivers and streams that our citizens rely on for drinking water is precisely why more and more health studies link mountaintop removal coal mining to a whole host of human health impacts from cancer to birth defects in babies.”

Just like the previous violations discovered in March, the new information shows the company used the same data in permit reports month after month, rather than submitting the results of any monitoring and testing that it might have done. This is a continuing problem that has occurred at more than a dozen Nally and Hamilton operations in five eastern Kentucky counties from October 2006 through March 2011, according to the coalition. These groups previously identified the same pattern of violations committed by ICG and Frasure Creek coal companies, which also submitted false or fraudulent water monitoring data.

“In the last 10 months we uncovered more than 41,000 Clean Water Act violations from three coal companies in Kentucky,” said Donna Lisenby, Director of Water Programs for Appalachian Voices. “With the filing of this fourth notice of intent to sue, it is undeniable that there is a clear pattern of Clean Water Act violations and yet no one in any government agency discovered these violations or brought enforcement action until we exposed the blatant lawlessness.”

State permits allow Nally and Hamilton, and other companies, to discharge limited amounts of pollutants into streams and rivers but require the companies to carefully monitor and report these polluted discharges. The coalition uses these publicly available reports to check on the companies.

“The abysmal failure to hold coal companies accountable to the law, a law put into place to protect our citizens from poisonous discharges being illegally dumped into our waters, has been so complete in Kentucky that I am stunned. Are we to conclude that our government is nothing more than a willing accomplice who aids and abets coal companies when they illegally dump their poison and waste in our Kentucky waterways? What message are they sending to the companies that are in compliance? Other industry leaders are furious at this double standard,” said Pat Banks, the Kentucky Riverkeeper.

According to the coalition, Nally and Hamilton’s discharge reports suggest that the company cut-and-pasted previous sets of data in later reports rather than monitoring the discharge and submitting accurate data for each month. It also omitted legally-required data from its reports.

“Every time we exposed the violations by Nally and Hamilton, ICG, and Frasure Creek mining in October, March, and June, the state agency said they would start reviewing water test results submitted by coal companies and start enforcing the law,” said Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “They had the same opportunity we did to find and bring an enforcement action for these newly discovered Clean Water Act violations, but instead of them stepping up and announcing their own legal action today, we have to do their job for them – no one in government seems to have the backbone to make coal companies abide by the law in Kentucky.”

Falsifying monitoring reports is another in a long list of recent allegations against the coal industry, which is under widespread pressure to clean up its destructive practices and take responsibility for its enormous and devastating ecological footprint.

“State officials in our Department of Natural Resources and Division of Water are supposed to protect citizens and the environment from lawless acts by scofflaw polluters,” Tallichet said. “Instead they are part of the overall problem that we intend to resolve through legal action. That is our right and duty as U.S. citizens under the Clean Water Act.”
Under the Clean Water Act, the company has 60 days to respond to the allegations made in the notice letter. If all violations have not been corrected at the end of 60 days, or the state has not preempted the suit, the groups plan on filing suit. The plaintiffs are being represented by lawyers with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Download the Notice of Intent to Sue letter (pdf format)

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Appalachian Voices is an award-winning, environmental non-profit committed to protecting the land, air and water of the central and southern Appalachian region. Since the impacts of coal threaten Appalachia more than any other single source of pollution, we are committed to reducing coal’s impact on the region and advancing our vision for a cleaner energy future. For more information please visit www.AppalachianVoices.org.

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth is a grassroots, citizens’ organization that believes in the power of people, working together, to challenge injustices, right wrongs, and improve the quality of life for all Kentuckians. Visit KFTC online at www.kftc.org.

Kentucky Riverkeeper’s mission is to serve as educator and citizen-based advocate for the responsible stewardship of the Kentucky River watershed and its resources for the present and future generations.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org.

Waterkeeper Alliance is a global environmental organization uniting more than 190 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy on the issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol more than 1.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. Part scientist, teacher, and legal advocate, Waterkeepers combine firsthand knowledge of their waterways with an unwavering commitment to their communities. www.waterkeeper.org

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Kentucky Coal Company Falsifies More Water Monitoring Data, Advocates Allege

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