ICYMI: EPA to Hold Three Public Hearings in Kentucky
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EPA News Release:
In response to requests from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, EPA will hold three public hearings in June to hear from stakeholders and the public about what actions to take on 36 draft individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for coal mining discharges in Kentucky. EPA filed a “specific objection” to each of these 36 permits because it was concerned that the draft permits would not protect water quality, the environment and human health consistent with the Clean Water Act (CWA).
One hearing will be held on June 5 at the Frankfort Convention Center from 7 to 11 p.m.; and two will be held on June 7 at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center – the first from noon to 4 p.m. and the second from 7 to 11 p.m.
Since 2009, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection’s Division of Water (KDOW) has authorized discharges from approximately 2,500 existing and new coal mining and processing projects under the Clean Water Act, mostly under an approved coal general permit. KDOW requires individual NPDES permits for mining or processing activities that discharge pollutants into waters that are already polluted and are not meeting water quality standards, along with new or expanding mines within five miles upstream of a drinking water intake. In the last three years, KDOW has issued 115 such individual permits.
For the 36 individual permits that are the subject of the hearings, EPA has been working with KDOW to collect and evaluate data on toxic metals, cyanide, phenols, specific conductance, and current biological health of the waters that receive discharges from the mines in an effort to work through the issues identified in the objections.
“Our intent is not to stop coal mining, but to ensure it proceeds in an environmentally acceptable way,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming. “We are holding these hearings on our permit objections to hear from those directly impacted and are hopeful that, following the hearings, the remaining 36 permits will be developed by KDOW with appropriate site-specific controls that will allow these projects to move forward while protecting human health and water quality as required by the CWA.”
Persons interested in attending a hearing are encouraged (but not required) to pre-register at least 72 hours before the hearing online or by calling 703-577-4953. When pre-registering, persons may request to speak at one of the hearings or they may sign up to speak in person on the day of a hearing, however, space is limited. People may also contribute comments, statements, data and other information to EPA regarding the specific objections in writing at any of the hearings, and either electronically or by mail by following the instructions on the website.
After careful consideration of all oral and written comments, data and the requirements of the Clean Water Act and applicable regulations, the EPA will determine whether to reaffirm, modify the terms of or withdraw each of the objections. For permits which EPA either reaffirms the original objection or modifies the terms of the objection, KDOW must, within 30 days, submit to EPA a revised permit that meets the terms of the remaining objection, or exclusive authority to issue the permit passes to EPA for one permit term. For any permits that EPA withdraws its objection, KDOW may proceed with the permit issuance process.
Instructions to register for the hearings and submit written comments, along with copies of KDOW’s 36 draft NPDES permits, fact sheets and specific objection letters, are available online at: www.epa.gov/region4/kycoalminehearings <http://www.epa.gov/region4/kycoalminehearings>