July 31, 2014
General environmental permits are for small, routine disturbances or discharges that pose little risk to the public and that require the same basic precautions: controlling runoff from excavating a small site, for example, or disposing of dry- cleaning chemicals.
Kentucky is seeking to renew its general permit for the coal industry — including mountaintop surface mines that disturb hundreds of acres, pollute streams already impaired by earlier mining and threaten aquatic life and human health.
The state is proposing to tighten some permitting rules to protect water and hoping to appease the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while loosening other rules.
A more fundamental question is whether there even should be a general permit for surface mining.
Individual permits allow greater scrutiny of mining plans and impacts and — very important — much more public involvement in permitting decisions.
At a time when so many people — including Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers — are working so hard to create new economic opportunities in Eastern Kentucky, protecting the region’s water and other natural assets, its livability, small towns and people is more important than ever.
What happens on the front end of the permitting process is all-important in Kentucky because the state cannot be counted on to enforce permit conditions against the coal industry.
And the EPA has a duty to protect water and the future, even if it means vetoing coal’s general permit in Kentucky.
— Herald-Leader, Lexington