Kentucky Department of Natural Resources
Non-Coal Mining Division
300 Sower Boulevard, 2nd Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
COMMENTS IN RE: Permit No. 099-9404, Red River Materials, LLC, December 13, 2016
These comments are submitted by the Kentucky Environmental Foundation regarding the application of Red River Materials, LLC, a Kentucky Limited Liability Company with its principal office in Lexington, Kentucky, for a non-coal mining permit. The application seeks permission to conduct non-coal surface mining using the contour and pit method on approximately 86.4 acres
IMPACT ON PUBLIC HEALTH
The introduction of a quarry into the community could present a range of concerns regarding impacts to public health.
IMPACT ON WATERSHED(S)
Since the Red River, which borders the proposed mine site, is Powell County’s only source of public water, in order to assure that the proposed mining will not adversely affect the hydrology of the area and the watershed into which the property drains, a hydrogeologic investigation of the property and relationship to Red River, various branches, creeks, streams, aquifers, springs, and to any private groundwater users in the area is appropriate.
In addition The Wild and Scenic designation also applies to the stretch of river that passes through the gorge, but it does not protect the entire Red River watershed from human impacts. Recently members of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, an environmental nonprofit, collaborated with the state’s Division of Water and the U.S. Forest Service to create the Red River Gorge Restoration and Watershed Plan, which addresses potential threats to the water quality of four creeks that flow into the iconic river. These threats include high levels of sediment resulting from road construction, and contaminated runoff from residential areas. Because portions of these tributaries are located on private property, the watershed plan recommends “best management practices” that property owners can implement in order to reduce the amount of polluted runoff. Maintaining a riparian buffer of stream side vegetation, which prevents bank erosion, is just one solution that private landowners can choose to implement.
The nonprofit organization has also secured an implementation grant from the Kentucky Division of Water, which they hope to use to create financial incentive programs for homeowners. The grant money will fund other stream restoration projects as well, such as the removal of two culverts on Indian Creek that are currently impeding the passage of fish. This proposed mining would likely heavily impact this plan and the community in a negative way.
IMPACT ON TOURISM/LOCAL ECONOMY
Tourism is the top industry/revenue producing “industry” within the area of and nearby the proposed mine site. Researchers estimate that approximate 7,500 climbers visit the Red River Gorge each year and spend an estimate $3.6 million in the six counties surrounding the Red River Gorge. In addition thousands visit to simply hike, paddle, camp and enjoy the natural beauty of this area. The proposed mine site would not only be in close proximity to many of the natural tourist destinations in the Red River Gorge/Daniel Boone National Forest area, but would be visible from the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway, Eastbound lane as tourists traveled to the Slade Exit towards Natural Bridge. Runoff, dust, and other debris (as well as potential noise pollution) from the proposed mine site would adversely alter the view-shed of the area and thus negatively impact tourism, a staple industry of this area.
IMPACT ON TERRESTRIAL SPECIES
The placement of a proposed quarry is in close proximity to known roosting sites for several species of federally endangered bats.
Federally Endangered Bat Species Documented or Likely Present Within one (1) Mile of Proposed Quarry:
The Virginia big-eared bat (documented) and the Indiana bat (likely) are Federally Listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Northern long-eared bat is Federally Listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Eastern Small-footed Myotis and Rafinesque big-eared bat are on the Kentucky Nature Preserves Rare Species List.
The Virginia big-eared bat, one of the rarest mammals in North America, is known to use sandstone rock shelters less than one (1) mile of the proposed limestone quarry. The largest known population occurs in the Daniel Boone National Forest in limestone caves and sandstone rock shelters in this area. Indiana bats and Northern long-eared bat likely use forested areas within the proposed limestone quarry for roosting.
“Range: Virginia big-eared bats occur in isolated populations in eastern Kentucky, eastern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and northwestern North Carolina.
Causes of Decline: Human disturbance is probably the biggest factor contributing to the decline of these bats. Disturbance during hibernation causes bats to lose stored fat reserves, and repeated disturbance can cause the bats to die before spring (when insect prey are again available). If female bats are disturbed during the maternity season, they may drop their young to their deaths or the whole colony may abandon a roost for a less suitable location.” Taken from: (http://fw.ky.gov/Wildlife/Pages/Virginia-Big-Eared-Bat.aspx)
Blasting from the quarry could damage karst/cave systems and rock features that harbor these critically endangered bats. Sonic disturbance caused from blasting could gravely impact and interfere with the bats’ natural echolocation processes. It should be noted that ALL bat species are under duress due to the often fatal disease, white-nosed syndrome that has wiped out as much as 90% of certain species of bats once considered common.
AQUATIC LIFE IMPACTS
Kentucky Arrow Darter (fish), known from the Red River Drainage, proposed for federal listing. Limestone sediments from the quarry can increase watershed damage, affecting numerous endangered fish and mussels. (see attached County Report of Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Plants, Animals, and Natural Communities of Kentucky
Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, December 2015 EXHIBIT “D” ). The resulting limestone enriched runoff would also create a disturbance in the balance of the Red River ecosystem by allowing for unfettered growth of algae and other invasive species that thrive on limestone-enriched waters.
Consultation with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by independent biological consultants should be required in order to assure no jeopardy, hazard, or physical damage to protected species, and to comply with both state and federally mandated laws concerning endangered/threatened flora and fauna.
The Cabinet has been made aware through public comments that there exists a number of karst features, including sinkholes and caves, on and near the property proposed to be mined. The presence of such features raises several concerns regarding the potential for environmental damage and hazard to public safety.
The presence of mature karst features may allow any blasting conducted in association with the quarry to adversely impact those properties and structures, since such features could provide a pathway for transmitting both air-blast and ground vibrations in a manner that is not readily controlled, and may concentrate the force of such blasts. The applicant should be required to retain a consultant qualified in the investigation and mapping of karst features, in order to develop and provide a thorough mapping of sinkholes, caves, and other karst features. Additionally, a blasting plan should be required that specifically addresses the potential for transmittal of blast vibrations through karst features, in order to protect the integrity of nearby residential structures and properties.
The presence of mature karst features presents a second concern that warrants investigation, which is whether there are cave resources in the vicinity that could, directly through quarrying or indirectly through changes in hydrology or through blast vibrations, be adversely affected in a manner that would violate the Kentucky Cave Protection Act.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of these concerns.
Kentucky Environmental Foundation
128 Main St, Berea, KY 40403
Plans to radically repurpose a 70-year-old pipeline that runs through Kentucky and four other states — and that would imperil Danville’s water supply and Mammoth Cave National Park — should not advance without a full environmental impact study.
A recent questionable recommendation that the project does not merit a full review appears to stem from an illogical technicality. The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission based this recommendation on just one phase of the plan, but disregarded the gist of the plan, which is the part that raises serious concerns about public safety and the environment.
Energy giant Kinder Morgan is seeking FERC’s approval to abandon a Tennessee Gas pipeline that has long carried natural gas north from the gulf. The proposal is to then convert the aged pipeline to move heavier, more pressurized and highly volatile fracking byproducts southward from drilling operations in Ohio to Texas.
ADVERTISINGThe staff report to the federal commission maintains that because abandoning the pipeline would not “cause” the conversion there is no need for FERC to undertake a more rigorous study of the environmental impacts. The project is designed to eventually deliver up to 450,000 barrels a day of natural gas liquids, such as butane, propane and ethane for use in manufacturing chemicals, to Texas.
The staff also explained that if the commission grants abandonment of the pipeline, its subesequent conversion to carry drilling byproducts would not fall under FERC’s jurisdiction. The FERC staff further passes the buck by saying that “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state agencies would be responsible for reviewing environmental impacts of the conversion.”
This bureaucratic hairsplitting is irresponsible. Kinder Morgan would not be asking to “abandon” the pipeline if it did not plan to quickly convert it to a new and riskier use. The two phases make up one piece, and the whole plan should be considered in a detailed environmental impact statement.
The pipeline conversion proposal is just the sort of action the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 said should be subject to rigorous review because the potential impacts are significant. The pipeline runs through towns and neighborhoods, near schools and college campuses, in 18 Kentucky counties, from Simpson to Greenup.
The National Park Service has expressed concerns about pipeline spills affecting Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest cave system, and the surrounding karst topography and groundwater.
The pipeline spans Harrington Lake, which is the primary source of drinking water for Danville and other communities. The company wants to rebuild the pipeline under the lake.
The Kentucky Environmental Foundation contends that separating the project into two parts is “an intentional effort” by Kinder Morgan to “avoid a full and careful” review of its intentions.
In addition to the Berea-based foundation, fiscal courts in Garrard and Clark counties, the Danville-Boyle Economic Development Partnership and the Bluegrass Area Development District have requested a full environmental impact statement.
We join them in that reasonable and responsible demand.
FERC will accept comments on the need for an environmental impact study until Dec. 2. Go to www.ferc.gov and look for the Documents and Filings link, case number CP15-88-000. Or call 202-502-8258 for help or send comments by letter to:
Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426
Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/opinion/editorials/article117823058.html#storylink=cpy
Craig Williams quoted by the Richmond Register in reference to the local natural gas pipeline.
Original story by Bill Robinson for the Richmond Register Find the original here.
Earlier this month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission delayed until Nov. 2 a decision on whether to require an environmental impact study before Kinder Morgan can be allowed to repurpose a 24-inch natural gas pipeline that runs across Madison County on its way from Pennsylvania to Louisiana.
A decision was expected by Sept. 2, according to Craig Williams of the Berea-based Kentucky Environmental Foundation.
His group was notified of the delay because it filed study seeking an EIS rather than a less-stringent environmental assessment or EA for the project, Williams said.
Original story by Andrew Brown for Charleston Gazette-Mail. The original can be found here.
Kinder Morgan, one of the country’s largest gas transmission companies, is set to start building two new compressor stations near Sissonville by the end of the year as part of an $800 million pipeline expansion project.
On Tuesday, the Houston-based company received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the two compressor stations in Kanawha County that are worth $100 million as part of the Broad Run Expansion Project.
Original story by Daniel Ross for Alternet. Find the original here.
By the year 2020, the U.S. is expected to have on its hands a growing stockpile of munitions nearing 1.1 million tons that are no longer considered useful to the military. As a means of disposal, these munitions, including small arms cartridges, rockets, mortars, artillery shells, tactical missiles and other wastes, have for decades been burned or detonated on large trays out in the open at military bases across the country.
Original story by Kentucky New Era. Find the original here.
IRVINE, Ky. (AP) — Estill County residents are asking for two seats at the table as state regulators discuss an agreement with a local landfill operator accused of illegally dumping low-level nuclear waste.
The Courier-Journal reports (http://cjky.it/2b8iuv0 ) a Tuesday letter to Energy and Environment Secretary Charles Snavely says Concerned Citizens of Estill County Inc. members are likely to distrust any agreement reached without citizen participation.
Cabinet spokesman John Mura did not immediately have an answer to why the citizen group was not allowed to participate in talks with Advanced Disposal. But Mura said that the cabinet is vigorously pursuing a consent agreement.
Original story by Center for Biological Diversity. Find the original here.
JACKSON, Miss.— Conservation groups filed a formal administrative protest late Wednesday challenging a Bureau of Land Management plan to auction off 4,400 acres of publicly owned fossil fuels in Kentucky and Mississippi. The protest cites concerns over climate change impacts and fracking, including toxic wastewater disposal; impacts to wetlands; and threats to several sensitive species, including endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers and one of the largest great blue heron rookeries in Kentucky.
Original story by KyForward. Find the original here.
The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky invested more than $3.1 million in 2015 to address the unmet health care needs of Kentuckians through work on responsive health policy, funding research, grantmaking and gatherings of health policy leaders and advocates, according to the Foundation’s annual report released Thursday.
Since it was founded in 2001, the Foundation has awarded nearly $25.5 million in grants.
Original story by James Bruggers for courier.journal. Find the original here.
A new citizen's group in Estill County is calling on Kentucky environmental regulators to open up their enforcement discussions with a landfill owner over the dumping of radioactive waste last year, as state officials sought to assure residents of their safety.
"This relationship between the environmental cabinet and the violators of state statutes (and settlement discussions) to be held in secret, is an age-old tactic," said Craig Williams, a member of the newly formed Concerned Citizens of Estill County Inc.
Original story by James Bruggers for courier.journal. Find the original here.
It seemed like a good idea back in 1976 - passing a Toxic Substances Control Act to safeguard Americans from chemicals that can cause cancer or other illnesses.
But it didn't work very well - in fact, it wasn't strong enough to even stand up to a ban on asbestos, a known carcinogen.
This week, there's a new chemical safety bill that President Obama is expected to sign, and believe it or not, it was a product of Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as environmental and industry groups.
Stop the presses.
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