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EPA Approves Weakening of Water Protections in Kentucky

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Link to EPA Decision:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4xljUDF_SgsTzdLYzlLdVo3VjQ/edit?usp=sharing

For Immediate Release:
November 15, 2013

Sean Sarah, Sierra Club, 330 338-3740 sean.sarah@sierraclub.org

EPA Approves Weakening of Water Protections in Kentucky

Washington, DC – Today, the Environmental Protection Agency allowed the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection to change how toxic selenium pollution from mountaintop removal mines is measured for the purposes of determining compliance with the Clean Water Act. Selenium, which causes significant biological damage to fish native to the waters of Appalachia, is a toxic pollutant discharged from valley fills into rivers and streams below mountaintop removal sites. The EPA-backed changes to how Kentucky measures selenium pollution allow the state to rely on an impractical and complicated test of tissue samples from fish rather than the current practice of directly sampling the water discharged below mountaintop removal mines and other selenium sources.  EPA’s capitulation gives a free pass to industry and will allow unacceptably high levels of selenium pollution to continue flow into Kentucky’s waterways.

In response Bruce Nilles, Senior Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign at Sierra Club, issued the following statement:

“We are deeply disappointed that the EPA approved Kentucky's request to weaken protections against water pollution from mountaintop removal mines. A straightforward approach has been replaced with a highly complicated system that will be hard to enforce, and could allow mountaintop removal companies to mine without accountability for the environmental destruction they force on the communities of Appalachia. In addition to being impractical to enforce, Kentucky’s fish-tissue standard is weaker than a Bush-era proposal that the scientific community emphatically rejected because it would not protect sensitive fish and other wildlife.

Mountaintop removal mining is one of the most destructive forms of resource extraction; polluting hundreds of miles of streams and actively destroying our mountain heritage. It is critical that community groups, environmentalists and the people of Appalachia do everything we can to stop attempts by mountaintop removal companies and their political friends to roll back the inadequate standards currently in place. Today, the EPA failed in their commitment to protect our natural spaces and clean water. They’ve allowed Kentucky to change the rules of the game and stack the deck against communities across the region.

The EPA has let the people of Appalachia down, allowing an even more aggressive assault on our clean water protections, in a region where coal pollution has already devastated water quality and endangered public health. It’s time to enact real reform that puts a halt to this most devastating form of mining.” 



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