KRC's Annual Report 1999-2000 Posted: January 28, 2001
FIFTEENTH ANNUAL REPORT OF ACTIVITIES OF THE KENTUCKY RESOURCES COUNCIL, INC.
Summary Of Selected Projects And Issues: August 1999
The work of the Kentucky Resources Council, Inc., in providing the only source of free legal, strategic, and policy assistance on environmental issues available to the low-income individuals and communities, to environmental and conservation organizations, to communities and to local governments in the Commonwealth, would not be possible without the support and encouragement of the following individuals and foundations, who each contributed $100 or more to the Council since January 1997. Those marked with an asterisk (*) were Council Board members at the time of the donation, and gave of their time and money:
Nicholas Kearn George Pickard
Ms. W.L. Lyons Brown Ms. Louise Chawla
Billy and Patsy Kirtley The Norton Foundation
Ms. Betsy Bennett Ms. Sarah Lynn Cunningham
Jamie Haworth Paul Rhodes
Ms. Maxine Gordon Anthony Helton
The San Francisco Foundation David and Lisa Holt
George and Nancy Stablein Hugh Archer
Ms. Teena Halbig An anonymous donor
Baylor Landrum* Victor Ferguson
Cathy Gilbert Stop The Okolona Project
Sue Anne Salmon W. Henry Graddy*
Phillip Shepherd John Cleveland*
J. Michael Ray* Don Girton*
Barbara Kelly and the membership of the Council
The staff and Board of Directors of the Council are deeply appreciative of the support provided by these individuals, organizations and foundations, and of their shared belief in the principles of environmental responsibility, equity and justice that is reflected in their support of the Council’s work.
This Fifteenth Annual Report of Activities provides a snapshot of the work of the Kentucky Resources Council, Inc. The highlighted activities are meant to convey the breadth of our work, and to highlight some areas in which we believe that tangible progress has been made.
What is the Council and What Does It Do?
The Kentucky Resources Council is a non-profit, membership organization whose members include a diverse cross-section of Kentuckians, and supporters of the Council's work who live across the country. The membership includes urban dwellers, rural and coalfield residents - Kentuckians from diverse backgrounds and with varied interests who share one common goal - of protecting our natural resources and communities from needless waste and destruction.
The Council performs a unique role among organizations that are working to improve our management of natural resources and to protect public health and safety from pollution. Called by one public television commentator "an environmental M*A*S*H unit," the Council provides without cost a range of legal and technical guidance, resources, and assistance to individuals, communities, local governments and to environmental and social justice organizations whose lands and lives are damaged by the waste and destruction of our natural resources. The Council Board of Directors is comprised of individuals who are linked to state conservation organizations and local community groups, in order to assure that the Council is attuned to the current issues and needs in the state.
The Council, in its sixteenth year, is directed by Tom FitzGerald. Becky Raff staffs the Council from its Frankfort office, meeting the needs of hundreds of Kentuckians each year regarding environmental information, as well as compiling the mailings, alerts, and many other significant activities of the Council.
The Council is a statewide organization, and is involved in state, national, regional, and local community issues across the state - from the banks of the Mississippi River at Hickman in Fulton County to the headwaters of the Clover Fork of the Cumberland River at Closplint in Harlan County. The Council's work, as a legal, strategic and technical resource center, takes many forms. In the pages that follow, the range of the Council's work is reflected - from advice to local governments and community groups, to advocacy before agencies on a range of matters, to legal representation of low-income individuals and groups in administrative and judicial cases involving significant local environmental impacts or policies of statewide or regional concern.
So what has the Council been up to?
Sounding the Alarm on Utility Deregulation - perhaps no one issue has the potential to adversely affect so many as the concept of deregulating the electric and gas utility industries. The proposal to replace a regulated monopoly environment in which all people are guaranteed service at reasonable rates and profits are capped, with a competitive environment, threatens low and fixed-income individuals and rural customers with poor and costly service and less reliability. The Council is in the forefront of efforts at the state level to oppose rapid radical deregulation of these industries.
A New “Bill of Rights” - drafted for Community Leadership Alliance, the “Citizen’s Bill of Rights” outlines the reforms needed to improve the public accountability of local government. A copy of the Bill of Rights is attached.
Birchwood Buy-out - The Council represented Teena Halbig, activist and founder of the Floyd’s Fork Environmental Association, in her effort to end the sludge dumping and “third world conditions” associated with the malfunctioning Birchwood Sewage Treatment Plant. Teena’s appeal resulted in an agreement by the Metropolitan Sewer District to take over the malfunctioning plant until 2001, when MSD’s sewers will be extended to take the plant off-line.
Without your help, expertise, knowledge, etc., the community around Birchwood would continue to suffer. I put all my faith in to you - that you knew the ropes and which buttons to push to get results. You always quickly grasp any given situation and are able to make rapid assessments and know the course to steer. We will spread the good news . . . .
Towering Interference - The Council is representing the Irish Hill neighborhood in a zoning fight over the construction of a 300’ radio tower. While the applicant claims that the tower is needed to provide service to his public agency clients, the tower has already been listed by another company as available for commercial leasing on the Internet.
Pass The Bottle . . . . Bill - The Council Director has been an active participant in the Container Deposit Task Force, created by the 1998 General Assembly to study container deposit legislation. The Director has been a vocal advocate for container legislation, and participated in a public TV show in January 1999 on the subject.
Your commitment to Kentucky’s natural resources is a goal to strive for, and I look forward to working with you to secure the passage of container deposit legislation as well as other defenses for the environment.
Rep. Gregory Stumbo, Majority Floor Leader, Ky. General Assembly
Watchdogging - as the only organization in the state routinely monitoring all proposed air, waste and water permits, and the development of environmental regulations in these areas at both state and federal levels, the Council comments on many of the draft permits, and sends copies of the public notices for many of these permits to local individuals and organizations; and assists in commenting on those permits.
The Council also submits detailed comments on numerous air, waste and water permits, and on regulations under development.
“Waste not” The Council was active in advising Oldham County in amending zoning regulations and adopting a local ordinance on siting and design of construction debris landfills.
Our organization and the citizens of Magoffin County do so appreciate all the work you did for us. Had you not been there, we could not have defeated Eastern Kentucky Resources. First of all you were instrumental in developing Senate Bill 2 before we were even aware of the problem. You time and time again led the way with your legal expertise on the issue. We called you at home on Sunday nights and other inconvenient times and you were always willing to help. Again we could not have prevailed against EKR without your help. There are no words adequate to express our thanks.
Patty Arnett, Magoffin Countians for A Better Environment,. Inc.
Hazardous waste - Working with the Concerned Citizens Coalition in continuing to oppose the proposed operation of a hazardous waste storage and blending operation located on the river side of the Ohio River floodwall, adjoining a riverfront community and near a residential trailer park, in an area without public water supply.
Cementing a relationship - Represented the Concerned Citizens Coalition in southwest Jefferson County, in negotiating conditions for a zoning request from the cement plant. Additionally, the Council has represented a neighbor in her efforts to secure a financial settlement from the company that will allow her to relocate away from the noise and dust of the facility.
There are so few times we encounter people like you who actually put yourself in the place of those you are speaking for, that it’s hard to find the words to express my appreciation. Your conscientiousness is like wind in our sails.
- Connie Morris, Concerned Citizens Coalition
Lobbying - within limits. The Council, to the extent permitted by law, engages in legislative advocacy during the 60-day biennial sessions of the state legislature. During the 1998 session, the Council was active:
* modifying a bill on hazardous waste to prevent sites from being left contaminated with no future responsibility.
* Opposing a pesticide bill that would limit liability and local government regulation of pesticide application.
* Amending a logging bill to protect existing enforcement tools for water pollution.
* Defeating a bill that would provide weak protections against industrial hog operations.
During the legislative session the Council generated and distributed by e-mail and ground mail, legislative updates analyzing the bills and informing the public and other organizations of the impact of proposed legislative measures.
Just a note to thank you for your incredible super-human efforts to help our state. I don’t know what I would have done the last several; years without you and KRS to help me to understand all the bills before the legislature. I made so many calls this year, the phone ladies at the legislative “hot line” knew my voice!
You are truly one of Kentucky’s most valuable resources!
- Lou Coots
Thank you Fitz! Your regular legislative updates were a model of how cyber space can be used at its best to increase citizen knowledge and engagement.
- Louise Chawla
Thanks, thanks, thanks for the legislative updates. It was only through your diligence and leadership that I knew the implications of many bills. You should be very proud of the work that you did and caused to be done during this legislative session. Kentucky’s laws are better because you were there.
- Mary Rose Evans
We appreciate your willingness to share your analysis of environmental legislation. Your legislative updates and issue briefings are priceless
resources to the Catholic Conference of Kentucky as we make public policy decisions. What is even more remarkable is your ability to articulate complex environmental issues in useable layperson’s terms.
- Jane Chiles, Director, CCK
Logs and Hogs- Industrial agriculture has come to Kentucky, with a vengeance. The Council has been active in efforts to seek greater local and state protections against industrial hog operations, which are bad for local environments and economies, and represent a threat to the family farm.
The Council has also been active in negotiating changes to state law to require certified loggers to oversee commercial timber harvesting operations and to use erosion control practices.
Powerlines - The Council successfully negotiated a settlement for Dan and Carol Turley, which allows a powerline installed without government approval to remain on their property, but requires that the line be screened, and compensates the Turleys at a level ten times higher than the company had initially proposed.
Let’s Make Plans - The Council has been active in negotiating the goals, objectives and plan elements for the revisions to the Jefferson County Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Cornerstone 2020.
Night of the Living Mall - Like the zombies in the movie, the Okolona mall project keeps returning. After the Corps of Engineers rejected the mall project, located in a floodprone and traffic-congested area, as being inconsistent with the public interest, the project was resubmitted with slight changes and approved by the Corps. The residents are gearing up for a zoning fight this month.
In a Fowl Mood - The Council continues to provide advice and assistance to local communities in adopting ordinances addressing the siting of industrial-scale poultry operations.
Fresh Air? - The Council developed and submitted numerous sets of comments on state and local air pollution regulations, including the new permitting program and accidental release provisions; securing changes in proposed regulations that will better assure the full and fair implementation of the Clean Air Act Amendments. The Council sits on state and local air pollution advisory panels.
Radioactive wastes - The Council, working with the residents of the Martha community, continues to monitor the cleanup of low-level radioactive waste associated with past oil production. The Council assisted Estill County in successfully opposing the land disposal of the wastes in a solid waste landfill in that community.
More Hazardous Wastes - The Council continues to monitor each proposed permitting action for hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility.
Coalition Building - actively supporting coalition-building among the state environmental groups and activists. A working group called the “No-name Working Group) meets monthly to review pending matters, to discuss coordinated strategies on issues such as water quality, forestry, and air quality. The Council periodically mails information or concern and the Council’s comments on various matters to the no-name group.
Responding to the absence of an organization focused on the economic and environmental impacts of gas and electricity deregulation, the Council organized and supports the Kentucky Energy Policy Center, which has issued a comprehensive critique of natural gas deregulation, and continues to monitor deregulation efforts.
When Project Warm decided to revive the “Conservation Roundtable” as a way to coordinate energy conservation efforts in the Jefferson County area, it asked the Council Director to keynote the first meeting, talking about environmental issues and the legislative process.
When we decided to revive the Energy Conservation Roundtable, we though “what better way to kick things off than to get Fitz to come and talk about environmental issues before the state legislature.” And we were right. Fitz provided an entertaining and enlightening update on key issues, as well as inspiring us with information on how easy it sometimes can be for concerned citizens to have an impact on the legislative process.
- Walter Lay, Director, Project Warm
The National Citizens’ Coal Law Project Continues Its Work. A project of the Council, the Coal Law Project provides national and statewide support to coalfield citizens on mining issues. Here’s a sample of what the Project has been doing:
Representing the Harlan County Chapter of the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth in negotiating a comprehensive settlement that will allow for permanent protection for the summit and northern forested ecosystem on Black Mountain, the state’s highest mountain peak.
Opposing coal industry efforts to weaken and overturn mining regulations;
Expanding the Project by a half-time position to increase a national legal presence on behalf of coalfield citizens.
Drafting comments on the definition of “valid existing rights,” which defines those mining operations that are “grandfathered” and could be allowed to mine within close distances to homes, churches, cemeteries and public parks and wilderness areas.
Protecting the right of coalfield landowners to have their water supplies replaced when damaged by mining.
Helping the residents of Camp Branch in Letcher County in getting Golden Oak Mining Company to replace water supplies that they damaged.
Representing the residents of Ary, Kentucky in successfully opposing the use of their community roads to haul coal from the massive Starfire mountaintop mining complex.
“Tell Fitz we couldn’t make it in these parts without him.”
- Linda Brock, member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Citizens Coal Council activist, Woodbine, Kentucky, in a note accompanying her membership contribution to the Council.
Fitz, thank you for the good work - you are the best. . . . I went to watch the kids do the ‘hands across the mountain’ this week, and I could not believe my eyes. I really got so excited I cried, I just think that if we made a difference in just one of those young minds to make them sensitive to the environment for the rest of their life it would be a great accomplishment.
- Teri Blanton, local Harlan County activist
“I read the news about Black Mountain, glimpsing a few of the hours that you put in as attorney and that many put in as activists in order to bring the effort to protect Black Mountain to life -- and you tipped the scales when there is such a massive weight on the other side. As a Kentuckian, as a human being, I am proud of you. You have shown again that people CAN make a difference. I hope that many have learned that lesson.”
- Louis Chawla, environmental educator.
“ Thank you for all you do. Without your expertise there would be a lot of children’s dreams that died in the birthing. You know the Bible verse that says ‘if you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, you can say to the mountain to be cast into the sea and it will?’ Well, we had a lot of little mustard seeds who spoke to the whole state with the faith that political hearts and wallets could be moved, and they were. So they spoke to the mountain not to be moved, and it stayed. Now that’s amazing.! I appreciate your expertise, your hard work, your dedication to this issue. It would have been a sorry story with a sad end without you.”
- Judy Bryson, Harlan County teacher.
“I have very much appreciated your help in attempting to reach agreement with the coal companies and the State on Black Mountain. It is apparent that you have the deep respect and gratitude of the Harlan County KFTC members. Gary asked me if I had ever met you, so I told him about the meetings in my basement nearly 20 years ago and how you said “sometime the time will come . . .” At least a part of that time has come and I thank you for still being there to help.”
- Dr. J.D. Miller, physician, Clover Fork, Harlan.
Negotiating the resolution of the Olive Hill limestone quarry case, which indefinitely postpones a planned limestone mine and protects the neighbors rights to challenge the operation in the future if it is reactivated.
We all want to thank you from the very depth of our hearts for all the time, effort and energy you have put in over the last five and a half years in aiding in our battle against the stone quarries. We have, as you well know, a long history in this area, and in Trough Camp and Smoky Valley in particular. Without the quarry being stopped, it appeared that we all would have been forced to sell out, and Trough Camp (branch) destroyed.
Family, friends and neighbors, whether vocal during the struggle or not, deeply appreciate all that you have done for us. We four personally feel a kinship and Christian love for you, and know that your efforts come from the heart and soul, and not the purse.
As we have said before, your names are honored whenever our families have gathered and will gather in the future. Your family names are tied to ours in a position of esteem and respect that no earthly thing can ever undo. Your work and sacrifices have raised spirits in our families and have encouraged other good works and hope.”
- Oris and Neva Parker, Nevada and Lana Webb, Olive Hill, Ky.
Negotiating the resolution of a lawsuit which lessens the impact of a mining operation on the viewshed of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
Representing Harlan County’s Pine Mountain Settlement School in its efforts to secure reclamation of a coal tipple site directly upstream from the school property.
“Let me say, Robin, if you do not already know, that Tom FitzGerald has been of inestimable value to me and to the School in this litigation. I have no idea how many hundreds of hours Tom has devoted to the project, but its worth, I’m sure, would have run into six figures at the private bar, had we had to hire someone of his equal.
I don’t think it is any exaggeration to say that the principled position staked out by Pine Mountain Settlement School had a real and lasting effect in setting in concrete a particular tone in policy with regard to the enforcement of the Surface Mining Act which will reach far beyond the headwaters of Greasy Creek.”
- Steve Cawood, co-counsel for Pine Mountain.
On behalf of the Pine Mountain Settlement School, I wish to express our sincere gratitude for your tremendous assistance in bringing the former Dollar Branch coal washer site to an acceptable settlement agreement. Your expertise, good will, and persistence brought a level of professionalism, confidence, and amicability to the entire undertaking and was critical; to achieving an adequate reclamation plan. . . . Without your help we would be struggling with a very serious environmental tragedy and dealing with its effects for a very long time. We are proud of your work and glad that our state has such an invaluable resource.
- Robin Lambert, Director, Pine Mountain Settlement School
Helping the Ohio River town of West Point, to oppose a limestone quarry which wants to open in an area which abuts the busy Dixie Highway and which is in the viewshed of the historic civil war Fort Duffield and within the boundaries of the historic town.
Representing the Buckeye Forest Council in a federal court action opposing a mining operation in the Wayne National Forest.
Co-sponsoring a Coal Field Strategic Summit to bring together coalfield lawyers and citizen activists to discuss strategies to assure implementation of the 1977 law.
Speaking Out - The Council has been talking:
- To the Kentucky Farm Bureau Leadership Enhancement program, regarding coalition building;
- to the Kentucky Recreation and Parks Society on Advocacy and Legislative Networking
- to the Kentucky Waterways Alliance Annual Conference, a Legislative Update
- to the Louisville Sierra Club, as part of a public radio program on environmental justice: Can Industry and Neighborhoods coexist?
We appreciated hearing your eloquently expressed views. I know the demands upon your time are great, and I thank you for giving us your time and insights.
- Kate Cunningham, Louisville Sierra Club Program Chair
- to the Louisville Urban Environmental Leadership Institute, on an overview of federal environmental laws,
- at a legal education seminar, on “working with the public on air issues.”
- to the Indiana Clean Power Campaign, regarding utility restructuring.
- to the Salt River Water Watch, on citizen activism
Thank you for sharing your time with us at the SSRW conference. Your passion will help move us into a better 1999. Lauri Holder, Salt River Water Watch
- to the Kentucky Natural Resources Leadership Institute, on effective lobbying and ethics
- to the Veritas Society at Bellarmine College, concerning electricity deregulation;
- to the Woodland Owners Association Legislative Meeting, on logging regulation;
- to the Community Leadership Alliance, on the 1998 Legislative Session;
- to the legislative Subcommittee on Planning & Zoning, concerning revisions in state laws on zoning and planning;
- on ethics, for the 15th Annual Environmental Law Institute at the University of Kentucky;
-to the State Housing Policy Advisory Committee, on the impacts of utility deregulation.