Len Peters allows destructive mining to resume | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Len Peters allows destructive mining to resume

Kentucky Energy Cabinet Secretary Len Peters last week issued an order allowing Cambrian Coal  to resume mining despite an administrative law judge's ruling that the mining would likely further damage Kentucky waterways.

Peters issued a six-page order that overturned Administrative Law Judge Steve Blanton's 96-page finding issued Sept. 30 in which Blanton wrote that the deficiencies in the permit were "extremely environmentally troubling because the watersheds receiving the discharges here are already impaired waters and pollutants from surface coal mining operations in the impact area are the cause of that impairment."

"Secretary Peters' decision to vacate Judge Blanton's order is outrageous and is a perfect example of how the Energy and Environment Cabinet is more interested in protecting the coal industry than protecting people and our communities," said Ted Withrow, a retired Kentucky Division of Water Basin Coordinator for the Big Sandy River and KFTC member.  "The secretary's decision ignores the compelling evidence and legal reasoning carefully laid out in Judge Blanton's exhaustive order."

Peters' order did not address or even mention the legal basis for Blanton's ruling, which is that the Kentucky law explicitly requires the cabinet to consider the hydrologic impacts of the proposed operation during mining.  With regard to the impacts of increased levels of conductivity and specific pollutants during mining, the cabinet stated that it would not consider those because they are too variable.

In May, KFTC and the Sierra Club challenged a 792-acre mining permit granted in April to Cambrian Coal that allows the company to add to the pollution levels in several streams in Pike County. Under the permit, Cambrian will discharge mining waste into tributaries of Elkhorn Creek, Marrowbone Creek and Pond Creek, all of which are tributaries of Russell Fork, a major tourism attraction and destination for many paddlers.


"If the state of Kentucky had the political will to uphold the laws designed to protect our local waterways, this area would have a shot at being prime spot for economic development for paddling and other water sports," said Bill Pierskalla, an avid paddler and member of the Sierra Club. "Elkhorn City already draws hundreds of paddlers and recreationists on a yearly basis. There's a lot of untapped potential, but one thing is clear - clean water is a critical to leveraging economic development in the area."

The groups are represented by attorney Mary Cromer with Appalachian Citizens' Law Center.


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