Great News for Clean Water in Virginia!

Friday, July 18th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | No Comments

Last week a federal judge upheld a previous decision requiring a Virginia coal company to get a permit for their discharges of toxic selenium. [ More ]

Today’s court decision and what it means for Appalachia

Friday, July 11th, 2014 | Posted by Thom Kay | 4 Comments

good_day_for_mtns2A major ruling in favor of the EPA says the agency has the authority to coordinate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when reviewing permits for mountaintop removal mines. The EPA has the legal authority, scientific evidence, and moral obligation to block every mountaintop removal permit that comes through its doors. We all share the responsibility of making sure it does just that. [ More ]

Take Action: Protect Appalachian Streams from Toxic Selenium

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | 16 Comments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised to loosen national recommended water quality standards for selenium, a toxic pollutant commonly released from mountaintop removal coal mines. You can stand up for streams in Appalachia by submitting comments urging the EPA to protect aquatic life and strengthen selenium standards. [ More ]

Court Grants North Carolinians a Voice in the Coal Ash Lawsuits

Thursday, May 8th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Kellogg | 1 Comment

906527_10152419133054084_3153136159662225319_oA North Carolina Superior Court judge ruled that conservation groups representing the interests of communities living near coal ash ponds can participate in a lawsuit between Duke and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources for documented, illegal coal ash pollution across the state. [ More ]

Appalachian Coal Companies Face Major Fines for Clean Water Act Violations

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 | Posted by Brian Sewell | 3 Comments

iron precipitate in right fork fugate creek below unpermitted fill and pondsTwo recent federal enforcement actions against major Appalachian coal companies, Alpha Natural Resources and Nally & Hamilton, are a positive sign. But can fining coal companies come close to solving the fundamental problem of water pollution that stems from mountaintop removal? [ More ]

KY and NC: Different States, Same Recipe for Lax Clean Water Enforcement

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | 4 Comments

Yesterday there was a hearing in Franklin Circuit Court for our ongoing challenge of a weak settlement that the state of Kentucky reached with Frasure Creek Mining. The settlement is a slap on the wrist that lets them off the hook for thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act, and it bears a striking resemblance to the settlement between North Carolina and Duke Energy that has come under scrutiny after their recent coal ash spill into the Dan River. [ More ]

Fighting for Clean Water in Virginia: Standing up to Coal Industry Bullies

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Chance | 2 Comments

944745_10100206520223687_1797773733_n Today, Appalachian Voices along with our allies in Virginia filed a lawsuit against Penn Virginia, for water polluted by selenium coming from abandoned mines on their land. This lawsuit is one in a series of suits aimed at cleaning up selenium pollution in Callahan Creek. [ More ]

EPA Helps Kentucky Roll Back Water Quality Protections

Friday, November 15th, 2013 | Posted by Erin Savage | 7 Comments

Above are blue gills that were collected below the site of TVA’s 2008 Kingston Coal Ash spill. They all have “pop-eye”, a deformity caused by selenium pollution where their eyes bulge out of their heads. These fish had selenium levels of 2.5-6.5ppm, well below Kentucky’s newly accepted standard of 8.6 ppm for fish tissue.

Just today, after several months of delays, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its decisions on the Kentucky Department of Water’s (DOW) amendments to the Kentucky Water Quality Regulations. Unfortunately, the EPA has approved substantive changes to the selenium freshwater chronic standard that will not adequately protect aquatic life and will be difficult, if not impossible to enforce at mountaintop removal coal mining sites throughout eastern Kentucky.

In theory, states review their water quality standards every three years in an effort to make sure these standards are up-to-date with current science and are protective of aquatic life. In some cases, however, the review becomes an opportunity for special interests to influence state agencies. This year, under pressure from the coal industry, the Kentucky DOW proposed to weaken selenium standards. Standards are used to set permit limits for industries that may discharge pollutants into public waterways. Though some mines in Kentucky are known to discharge selenium into streams, the Kentucky general permit for valley fills does not currently include selenium permit limits.

Selenium is a naturally occurring element that can be released into streams through mountaintop removal coal mining. Once in the water, selenium bioaccumulates in fish and other aquatic life, increasing in concentration up the food chain. Selenium is toxic to aquatic life at very low levels. For these reasons, Appalachian Voices and our allies have been working to challenge Kentucky’s proposed selenium standards.

Kentucky DOW proposed to raise the acute selenium standard from 20 ug/L in the water column to 258 ug/L in the water column. They also proposed changing the chronic standard of 5 ug/L to a more complicated system where a level of 5 ug/L in the water column would not be enforceable, but instead would trigger the need to sample fish tissue. The new chronic standard would be 8.6 ug/g in fish tissue, or 19.2 ug/g in egg/ovary tissue. The 5 ug/L water concentration would only be an enforceable limit if no fish were available for sampling.

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Local Citizens Speak Up about Nation’s Top Source of Toxic Water Pollution: Coal-Burning Waste

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 | Posted by Sarah Kellogg | 2 Comments

G.G. Allen Steam Plant's Waste Storage Facilities and Nearby Neighborhood

G.G. Allen Steam Plant’s Waste Storage Facilities and Nearby Neighborhood

Last month, more than 150,000 people across the country submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, encouraging the agency to adopt strong regulations for the toxic waste water produced by coal-burning power plants.

The comments were submitted to the EPA after the agency proposed an update of the rules under the Clean Water Act last April. The proposed steam electric effluent limitation guidelines, or ELG rules, have the potential to protect more than 23,000 miles of waterways from up to 5.3 billion tons of toxic waste water a year.

The EPA’s rules for coal waste water have not been updated since 1982, and since four out of five power plants have no limits on the levels of heavy metals they can dump into rivers and lakes, the new rules could provide hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens with peace of mind.

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Another Clean Water Win! No More Sludge in the Ohio River

Thursday, September 12th, 2013 | Posted by Kara Dodson | No Comments

A Kentucky court ruling for clean water comes as the EPA finalizes revisions to rules governing power plant wastewater discharge. Tell the EPA to develop strong standards to protect clean water before September 20.

A Kentucky court ruling for clean water comes as the EPA finalizes revisions to rules governing power plant wastewater discharge. Tell the EPA to develop strong standards to protect clean water before September 20.

Here’s some good news for your Thursday — a Kentucky court ruled in favor of clean water in a landmark case that will protect the Ohio River from being further polluted by coal waste.

The ruling comes just in time for a nationwide revision to a 30-year-old U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guideline linked to the court’s decision.

Back in 2010, Louisville Gas & Electric’s Trimble County coal plant near Bedford, Ky., was permitted to store toxic waste byproducts in a wet pond that flowed into the Ohio River. That means the only barrier between a stream of heavy metals, including arsenic and selenium, and the drinking water source for millions of people was a settling pond. Essentially, the Kentucky Division of Water had given LG&E a free pass to slowly poison the river and the communities that rely on it.

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Budget Hacks in White House Bow to Industry Pressure on Clean Water Rule

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 | Posted by Kate Rooth | No Comments

A story this week describes how the Office of Management and Budget caved to industry pressure and weakened an EPA proposal to update a 30-year-old rule on power plant wastewater discharges.

A story this week describes how the Office of Management and Budget caved to industry pressure and weakened an EPA proposal to update a 30-year-old rule on power plant wastewater discharges.

We’ve written before on the Front Porch Blog about the need to dramatically strengthen federal limits for wastewater discharges from the nation’s power plants, which account for roughly two-thirds of all toxics that wind up in America’s rivers, streams and other waters. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency, finally, issued a proposal to update the 30-year-old discharge rule.

While not perfect, the proposed “effluent limit guidelines,” or ELG rule, would go a long way to reducing the discharge of toxics, including mercury, selenium, arsenic and lead, to name just a few. The EPA included several different options for electric utilities to achieve the pollution reductions.

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Concerns Grow Over the EPA’s Stance on Selenium Pollution

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 | Posted by Erin Savage | 3 Comments

Protect Appalachia's Waterways from Toxic Selenium Pollution

In February, we wrote about the new selenium water quality standards being proposed by the Kentucky Division of Water and urged concerned citizens to express their concern to the state. Now, Kentucky has gone ahead with its proposal, submitting the new standards to the EPA for review. While the EPA may deny Kentucky’s proposed standards, concerns are growing that the EPA, influenced by states beholden to their mining industries, may release its own inadequate standard. That is why we are urging people to tell EPA to stop Kentucky, and to require strong, enforceable standards in every state.

Kentucky High Selenium Coal Seems

Selenium is of particular concern in Kentucky and other Central Appalachian states because it is often released into streams through mountaintop removal coal mining and is toxic to aquatic life at very low levels. Even though many high-selenium coal seams are mined in Kentucky, companies typically claim there will be no selenium discharge when first applying for a permit, so that the pollutant is not included on the permit. Selenium has rarely been included on mining permits in Central Appalachia, effectively allowing companies to avoid monitoring or treating it, unless citizens force them to with lawsuits. A recent victory in a lawsuits over illegal selenium discharges from a Virginia surface mining operation indicates that selenium pollution is a widespread problem at mountaintop removal mines across Central Appalachia.

Kentucky has faced increased pressure from citizens and the EPA to include selenium standards on pollution discharge permits, so that water quality is adequately protected. Unfortunately for the coal companies, selenium is expensive to treat and difficult to keep out of streams impacted by surface mining in high-selenium coal seams. Adding selenium to permits would mean that many coal companies have to start paying for a much larger portion of the damage they create. It appears that the state is helping coal companies find a way to avoid responsibility for selenium discharges. By increasing the legal limit of selenium allowed in streams and including fish tissue-based standards that are difficult, if not impossible to enforce, the state will allow many companies to continue to skirt their responsibility to the land and the people of Kentucky.

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