The deal with ICG, if approved in court, writes Estep, "would end its part of a controversy that came to light in the fall of 2010. That was when environmental groups announced they had discovered widespread problems with water-pollution discharge monitoring reports from ICG and Frasure Creek" Mining, a second party to the suit that is not part of the proposed settlement.
"Coal companies must monitor pollutants coming from surface mines and report the data to the state, which is supposed to investigate if pollutants exceed certain levels," Estep explains. "The groups said in reviewing reports from ICG and Frasure Creek from 2007 and 2008 they found cases of mineral discharges exceeding legal limits by up to 40 times. There also were forms signed by supervisors before tests were actually done, data copied and pasted from one quarter to the next, and testing dates scratched out and rewritten. Some reports were missing. The groups argued the reports were falsified and that Kentucky was not doing a good job reviewing them for violations. A Kentucky official later acknowledged the state had not done enough to make sure mining companies were submitting accurate information."
UPDATE: Frasure Creek Mining has announced it is no longer mining coal in Kentucky because its financial problems have prevented it from resolving the court-ordered mediation over water quality violation fines, The Associated Press's Dylan Lovan reports. Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet attorney Michael Haines said the company is no longer making a profit. Frasure Creek attorney Jack Bender said the company was willing to pay the $310,000 fine that was originally settled upon before a coalition of environmental groups challenged it. But Appalachian Citizens Law Center attorney Mary Cromer said the company should "not be able to get out of having to pay any penalties just because they say they're in financial trouble," and that it should have to prove its financial hardship to the court. (Read more)