The Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority, in effect usurping states’ rights to regulate surface mining operations, according to a decision issued on Tuesday by the U.S. District Court.

District Judge Reggie B. Walton issued his ruling in response to a lawsuit from the National Mining Association, among others, against the EPA and its administrator, Lisa Jackson. Walton noted that the EPA exceeded its statutory authority under the Clean Water Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act by issuing a final guidance memorandum last year that included thresholds for water quality standards based on conductivity levels in streams near surface mining operations in Appalachia.

Coal industry supporters decried the guidance as a method for the EPA to hold up surface mining permits in Appalachia. EPA officials argued that the guidance was not binding, but instead offered guidelines for regulators to follow to protect local water quality based on the best available science.

In their arguments, the EPA claimed that the guidance is not a final agency action, and even if it was the U.S. District Court does not have jurisdiction.

Judge Walton, however, ruled to the contrary, noting that the guidance has also affected the way regulators approach the permitting process.

“The record before the Court thus confirms the plaintiffs’ allegations that the Final Guidance is being implemented as binding and having a practical effect on the permitting process for new Appalachian surface coal mining projects,” Walton noted in Tuesday’s ruling.

Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, which was also a party to the lawsuit, said it is unclear how this ruling will affect the industry which is currently experiencing a downturn, but it will prevent the EPA from unduly barring surface mining permits in Appalachia.

“United States District Court for the District of Columbia today announced what Kentucky coal miners have already witnessed firsthand – That the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its leadership acted unfairly and illegally in imposing its moratorium on the issuance of coal permits,” Bissett said in a statement. “At a time when our coal miners are concerned about their jobs, it is good news to know that our court system sided today with Kentucky workers over the ideology of appointed bureaucrats. It is our hope that the rest of the nation sees the wrong that was occurring in the Commonwealth of Kentucky by our own federal government.

“I want to thank Governor Steve Beshear, Secretary Len Peters, and our legal team who supported our efforts. While it is too early to see any progress with Eastern Kentucky mining permits from today’s verdict, it is our hope that new opportunities for mining-related employment will no longer be held hostage by publicly-funded anti-coal activists in our government who care little for the working people they are hurting.”

 

Summary

A U.S. federal judge ruled against the EPA and declared the EPA’s actions unfair and issued that more permits be allowed to the Kentucky Mines. It is a milestone for Kentucky’s mines because it allows miners that were being laid off to be put back to work and provided a boost  to the ailing economy (Richards, 2012).

FRANKFORT – Fiscal courts in 34 counties will receive refunds totaling $585,600 from mining permit and acreage fees. The Department for Natural Resources collects mining permit and acreage fees and returns a portion of the fees to coal-producing counties for projects that the fiscal courts deem beneficial to their communities.

“Every effort is being made by this administration to help the mining industry extract coal in a manner that is safe, efficient and protective of our environment,” said Gov. Beshear. “Our coal-producing counties are our partners and these funds provide a direct benefit for their efforts.”

Refunds range from $62 to $111,948, with 11 counties each receiving more than $23,000.The following list includes the counties and refund amounts:

Bell County Fiscal Court – $38,845

Boyd County Fiscal Court – $875

Breathitt County Fiscal Court – $34,191.67

Clay County Fiscal Court – $10,812.50

Daviess County Fiscal Court – $7,175

Floyd County Fiscal Court – $38,320.83

Harlan County Fiscal Court – $35,217.50

Henderson County Fiscal Court – $6,525

Hopkins County Fiscal Court – $4,725

Jackson County Fiscal Court – $325

Johnson County Fiscal Court – $5,212.50

Knott County Fiscal Court – $43,521.67

Knox County Fiscal Court – $24,183.33

Laurel County Fiscal Court – $2,375

Lawrence County Fiscal Court – $6,420.83

Lee County Fiscal Court – $300

Leslie County Fiscal Court – $19,633.33

Letcher County Fiscal Court – $33,437.50

Magoffin County Fiscal Court – $25,787.50

Martin County Fiscal Court – $25,697.67

McCreary County Fiscal Court – $62.50

McLean County Fiscal Court – $350

Morgan County Fiscal Court – $300

Muhlenberg County Fiscal Court – $7,375

Ohio County Fiscal Court – $16,575

Owsley County Fiscal Court – $4,441.67

Perry County Fiscal Court – $56,657.50

Pike County Fiscal Court – $111,948.17

Pulaski County Fiscal Court – $700

Rockcastle County Fiscal Court – $600

Union County Fiscal Court – $1,700

Webster County Fiscal Court – $4,850

Whitley County Fiscal Court – $13,908.33

Wolfe County Fiscal Court – $2,550

 

Summary

Eastern Kentucky coal producing counties get a refund for the excessive fees charged to them for coal permits and acreage. The excess amount is to be used for a project that is beneficial to the community.  “These refunds range from $62 to $111,948” (Coal counties get refund from mining fees, 2012).

A private company announced plans this week to build a coal-to-liquid fuel plant in western Kentucky, which could also lead to additional facilities.

Officials with US Fuel Corporation say their plant will convert coal to “non-petroleum based alternative fuels” like diesel and aviation fuel, and can process 148 tons of coal per day to produce 8,500 gallons of high grade, low sulfur diesel.

The first facility will be built in Capital City, Muhlenberg County, in the Western Coalfields, according to information on the company’s website posted on Tuesday, and will lead to other “larger scaled commercial facilities.”

The company plans to build the additional sites where coal is readily available, though any future plans as to specific locations haven’t been released. The company does note that their plants are based on proven scalable technology and will be environmentally friendly.

“As planned, the US Fuel facilities will meet federal state and local emissions standards; they will produce a near zero discharge of both carbon dioxide and wastewater,” the company’s statement reads.

The company also claims that engines using this type of fuel are “significantly cleaner” and produce fewer emissions of air pollutants such as carbon dioxides and sulfur oxides than typical internal combustion engines utilizing petroleum based fuels.

Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, said Muhlenberg County is an excellent choice for US Fuel Corporation’s first facility because of the local coal supply and the area’s interest in clean coal alternatives. “This plant will utilize clean coal technology to provide jobs and hope to our local coal miners and give direction to the rest of the country about other ways coal can be used to provide energy to our nation.”

Read more: Hazard Herald (KY) – Plans announced for coal to fuel plant in Ky

 

Direct Quotes:

Officials from US Fuel Corporation have said “Their plant can convert into non-petroleum based alternative fuels like diesel and aviation fuel, and can process 148 tons of coal per day to produce 8,500 gallons of high grade, low sulfur diesel” (Hazard-Herald Staff, 2012, p. 1)

HAZARD – Kentucky’s Friends of Coal license plate in 2011 was again the highest selling specialty plate in the state, according to Perry County Clerk Haven King.

King, who also works as director of the pro-coal lobby Coal Mining Our Future, released the figures this week, noting that 15,475 Friends of Coal plates were sold in 2011. That’s more than double the next best-selling plate, the state’s Army veteran plate, which sold 6,664 last year, and nearly triple the number of University of Kentucky plates sold during the same time period.

King noted that more Friends of Coal plates were sold in the clerk’s office in Perry County than in any other county, adding that he believes they are a good advertisement for the coal industry in Kentucky outside of the coalfields in the eastern part of the state.

“When they go down to Myrtle Beach, they go down to Florida, or they’re up in Cincinnati or Lexington, what a good ad that is,” he said.

King credited Coal Mining Our Future and its member companies – TECO, ICG (now Arch Coal), James River Coal and Pine Branch Coal Sales – with leading the effort to gather the signatures required to produce the plate.

“Those four companies where the ones that made that thing possible,” he said.

Since the Friends of Coal license plate began production in 2009, close to 57,000 plates have been sold statewide, with an additional 1,940 motorcycle plates sold since last year when it went into production. King added that the motorcycle plate bearing the Friends of Coal logo was the result of a collaboration of Coal Mining Our Future and Coal Operators in Pikeville, as they worked together to gather the signatures needed.

Read more: Hazard Herald (KY) – Friends of Coal plate remains best seller

 

Direct Quotes:

Perry county clerk Haven King said “Kentucky’s Friends of Coal license plate in 2011 was again the highest selling specialty plate in the state” (Ritchie C. , 2012, p. 1).

 

With so much uncertainty in the Kentucky coal industry lately, mines and miners received some good news last week in the form of a large international coal sale that could mark the beginning of more overseas sales.

Analysts have said for many years that with the United States moving toward exploring alternative energy sources, that much of the coal being mined in the United States, and especially Kentucky, will eventually make its way overseas. Currently, only around five percent of the coal mined in Kentucky is being exported, but that number has been expected to grow.

While this growth took a while to begin, a new deal with an Indian energy company could mark the start of more coal exports. Abhijeet Group has made a $7 billion deal for 9 million tons of coal each year for 25 years. They will be getting coal from Kentucky and West Virginia during this time.

Bill Bissett with the Kentucky Coal Association said that while KCA was not involved in this deal or any other coal sales, it is something he is glad to see and expects to happen more often. Bissett said that with so many people in the world and as more nations industrialize, the need for affordable energy will also increase.

It is not yet clear how the breakdown of this deal will go as far as using one company or multiple, or what regions of the states will be most affected.

“I am not sure what the percentage is between West Virginia and Kentucky Coal,” said Bissett.

However, having a long term consistent deal will help to sustain coal production for those involved for quite some time in a slowing American coal market.

“As we have more people living longer, building more things, they are going to need more electricity,” said Bissett.

While many of these developing nations are looking for ways to quickly get online with developed nations, they are going to be using coal, however, coal is not the only energy that they are looking at.

“I will admit that China and these sorts of developing countries are doing all sorts of energy development, but the primary driver is coal,” said Bissett.

This means that coal-fired energy is the fastest way to get electricity to these countries. Bissett said that the United States is a great example of how coal can be used to quickly and effectively get people on the grid.

“To me, the case study is the United States itself,” said Bissett. “At the turn of the century we had coal camps in Eastern Kentucky that had electricity before urban areas did.

The fear remains that eventually these emerging countries may also move away from the use of coal.

In the meantime, more deals are being worked out between Eastern Kentucky coal mines and emerging countries to meet energy needs. This is something that has been done in western coal fields for several years.

“It is happening with other coal markets,” Bissett noted. “When you look at the western U.S. production — Wyoming [and] Colorado — a lot of that goes over to China.”

Summarization

Coal is a vital resource to this region along with several other regions. It is an important source of revenue; however it could be even better if we started exporting it to other countries. In this article that is exactly what happens, a deal is made with a energy group from India and ultimately opening up the door war for future business transactions.

David Bush

English Composition 112 E

Dr. James King

August 27, 2012

Blog Entries

  1. 1.           Business owner presents county his plan for growth

 

  

HAZARD — A local business owner made an appeal to the Perry County Fiscal Court this week in an effort to bring more jobs and industry to Perry County.

Joey Stidham, who is originally from Perry County but currently lives in Leslie County and owns Stidham Reconstruction and Investigations, made a presentation about changes that could be made to the Coal Fields Industrial Park in Chavies to improve the park’s chances of attracting businesses to the area.

During the August 21 fiscal court meeting, Stidham came with a binder full of ideas for building Perry County back after being severely affected by the slowdown of coal sales and the national economic recession. By investing funds now in projects that make business easier in the region, Stidham hypothesized that the county could see considerable growth.

This has been seen to work in other areas such as Bowling Green and Pikeville, he said.

“The city of Pikeville has grown from nothing to something that is scandalous,” said Stidham.

Stidham started his career as a State Police trooper in Pikeville in 1990. Since then, the city of Pikeville and Pike County have worked to expand major roads through the county. These large investments have paid off with growth in industry, and especially in the medical field.

Perry County has also worked to make appeals for businesses to come to the area. Officials had seen some success in attracting businesses, but difficulty in keeping them. Part of this difficulty has come from the accessibility of the region and difficulty in shipping items made in Perry County to other parts of the country. Stidham said that if a train track could be brought to industrial areas or a road to a train track, then ease of shipment could help get more industries into Perry County.

“The fact is that that the U.S. government says that 42 percent of the freight is sent by rail, and only 21 percent of that is what we produce, coal,” said Stidham.

Currently, the Coal Fields Industrial Park has only a few active businesses after many of them have closed. While there is a good amount of flat land, the road getting to the park is steep and difficult for large equipment to climb. Stidham proposed building a new road specifically for heavy equipment and trucks that would lead to a train loading area in Chavies.

Lumber yards are an example of Eastern Kentucky areas using natural resources to create products to ship across the nation, and Stidham cited one in particular that he has visited.

“That lumber yard not only cuts raw logs, they put them in a kiln they dress then and then they load a million board feet a month on a train, and they ship it to their warehouse in California,” he noted.

Another option for the industrial park would be to use the land for a slaughterhouse and then transport the meat by railway to different areas. Stidham said that money has been made available for similar projects that can employ people in several areas of the process.

“Roy Collins, he is on the state agriculture commission. They give away money to farms,” said Stidham. “They just gave $400,000 to Wolfe County to build a slaughterhouse. We can raise hogs and we can raise cattle on abandoned strip mines. We can do it well.”

Along with making improvements to the industrial park, Stidham’s plan includes working the airport into better connection with the park. The airport lacks around 4,000 feet of length to land large commercial jets.

“In Atlanta they are landing them at 6,800 feet, that is real close to what we have straight across the road in the industrial park,” said Stidham. “FedEx has built their distribution center their.”

Perry County Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble said that they have been waiting for a coal company to mine out the area to build the additional runway, though it has been nearly 10 years and the coal company has not moved into the area. Noble said UPS had indicated that the company would build the hub there as long as the runway is made to fit their planes.

“Judge, there is a lot of money out there for the right project,” Stidham said, adding that he believes the county could build the runway without the help of the coal company.

Stidham said that with grants and federal funding, many of the projects he is talking about could be made possible with little money spent by the county. However, if the funding can’t be made available it would still be worthwhile to put money in to get the money out.

According to Noble, $18.4 million that was spent on bringing Trus Joist into Perry County was easily paid back in taxes despite the short time they were in the county. Stidham cited this as being an example of how putting money into a risk like these projects can pay off in the long run for the county.

“One thing I see is my home declining because of coal,” said Stidham about the slowdown in coal sales that has led to thousands of layoffs. “But I also see an immense opportunity for us to grow.”

Following Stidham’s presentation, the fiscal court voted to put efforts into cleaning up the over grown areas of the industrial park to help make the area more desirable to companies. They have also agreed to look into these projects and see what would be feasible for the county.

Read more: Hazard Herald (KY) – Business owner presents county his plan for growth

Summarization

In this article a local business man of Hazard, KY is proposing that coal severance money, be invested in other forms of economic growth for the town. For instance, his proposal calls for better transport of Hazard’s resources to other parts of the country, lumber being a prime example of these resources. Along with this, he states that, with the vast land the resource park offers, we have so much potential to bring in other businesses so that in the future when coal runs out we have an alternate form of revenue.

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