FRANKFORT — A coalition of environmental groups and private citizens announced plans Thursday to sue three mining companies, alleging they exceeded discharge limits for pollutants and falsified monitoring reports on as many as 20,000 occasions.
The group represented by Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic of New York and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sent a letter of intent Thursday to companies operating in eastern Kentucky, ICG Knott County, ICG Hazard, and Frasure Creek Mining, a subsidiary of Trinity Coal, giving them 60 days notice that they intend to sue.
The letter from Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance alleges the companies exceeded pollution discharge limits in their permits and “consistently failed to conduct the required monitoring of their discharges and, in many cases, submitted false monitoring data.”
The environmentalists also allege the state Division of Water turned a blind eye, ignoring obvious duplications of data and significant exceeding of permit limits. The group said the violations could result in as much as $740 million in fines.
“The sheer number of violations we found while looking over these companies’ monitoring reports is astounding,” said Donna Lisenby of Appalachian Voices of North Carolina. The group viewed the documents after obtaining them through open records requests.
Roger Nicholson, General Counsel for ICG which owns ICG Hazard and ICG Knott County, said the company “categorically denies” the company falsified reports and called the environmental groups “anti-mining extremists.” CNHI News Service was unable to contact officials of Frasure Creek.
Lisenby said discharge monitoring reports covering the months of August and September 2009 were dated July 2009. She said 42 of reported pollutant levels for the first quarter of 2009 “exactly matched all the reported pollutant levels for the second quarter” a coincidence she said is nearly impossible. Some reports indicated pollutants 40 times above the allowable limit.
“Our state officials have closed their eyes to an obviously serious problem,” said Ted Withrow, a retired Big Sandy Basin Management Coordinator for the Kentucky Division of Water and a member of KFTC. “These are not small exceedances. This should have been a red flag.”