The McCreary County Record

State News

February 23, 2010

Appalachian strip mines have long-term environmental effect

GAO says Concentrations of selenium exceeded standards in post-reclaimed streams. Click link to download and read GAO report.

Reclaimed surface mines in Central Appalachia have continuing environmental impact after their reclamation bonds are released but are not commonly monitored by state and federal regulators, says a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The non-partisan investigative arm of Congress cited poor reforestation efforts, contaminated streams that harm aquatic organisms, water-flow issues and failure to restore approximate original contour to sites that may be called “mountaintop removal” but are actually permitted as area mines.

State officials, who enforce strip-mine laws with oversight by federal officials, called the report overbroad, but its sponsor endorsed it.

"Mountaintop-removal mining has lasting and far-reaching effects on surrounding lands and streams," Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who requested the study, told Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette. "This GAO review documents the extent of these effects and the mechanisms now in place to evaluate their impacts over time.”

The report, coupled with one in December on mountaintop removal, could help inform the debate about surface mining in Central Appalachia, a debate that has intensified from both sides but one that is often dominated by opinion rather than fact.

The report studied surface mining in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, where surface mining disturbed approximately 400,000 mostly forested acres between 1994 and 2008. From 1985 to 2005, almost 1,000 miles of headwater streams were estimated to be buried by valley fills made from rock blasted and excavated to reach coal seams.

The latest report focuses on a core principle of the 1977 federal strip-mine law, which requires coal companies provide a bond ensuring that money will be available for state or federal officials to reclaim mined land if the company fails to do so.

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency “reported that aquatic life downstream from 27 active and reclaimed mountaintop mines with valley fills showed subtle to severe effects compared with aquatic life downstream in similar, but unmined, West Virginia watersheds,” GAO reports. Investigators also reported concentrations of selenium exceeded standards in post-reclaimed streams. Selenium, found in coal and some shales, is in an essential nutrient in small amounts but is toxic in large amounts.

Text Only
State News
  • Healthcare signup in state extended

    FRANKFORT — While the national health exchange established by the Affordable Care Act — known to some as Obamacare — suffered glitches, crashes and delays, the Kentucky-run exchange, Kynect, was often used as a

    April 6, 2014

  • Kentucky Governor’s Mansion Documentary to Premiere April 6

    FRANKFORT, Ky.  – As part of the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion Centennial Celebration, a new documentary about the architectural, social and political history of the residence was filmed in 2013. The film, titled

    April 4, 2014

  • City-County tax agreements addressed in bill amendments

    Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has again filed amendments to unrelated bills which would impede legal action by the city of Corbin to retain a portion of an occupational tax levied by Knox County.

    April 4, 2014

  • ‘Democracy in its purest form’

    It was almost surreal.

    The Kentucky General Assembly, divided between chambers along party lines, overwhelmingly passed a $20-billion, new two-year budget

    April 2, 2014

  • Judge: Companies can’t use eminent domain for pipeline project

    FRANKFORT — Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Tuesday ruled that companies building a natural gas liquids pipeline across parts of Kentucky cannot invoke eminent domain to force private

    March 27, 2014

  • Senate passes budget with no locked-in gas tax hikes

    FRANKFORT — The state Senate on Tuesday passed its version of a two-year revenue measure, and unlike the House version, it does not lock in gas tax increases.

    March 27, 2014

  • Stumbo on sales tax

    FRANKFORT — An effort to push a constitutional amendment that would allow local governments to enact a time-limited 1 percent sales tax to finance specific projects seemed dead in this year’s General

    March 27, 2014

  • Senate sets budget with ‘wiggle room’

    FRANKFORT — It was no surprise the Republican-controlled Kentucky state Senate altered the $20 billion, two-year state budget approved by the Democratic-controlled House, but there may have been a few who

    March 27, 2014

  • Still no snow day solution from lawmakers

    FRANKFORT — Senate and House negotiators, working on a bill to give school districts flexibility in making up snow days, each accused the other of moving the goal posts – but it’s the local school districts who may be penalized.

    March 26, 2014

  • Senate passes bill to reduce length of legislative sessions

    FRANKFORT — Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg agree: The length of General Assembly sessions each year makes it difficult for those with private jobs to serve as “citizen legislators.”

    March 25, 2014

AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide