In 2010, four residents of Harlan County, Roy Silver, Bennie Massey, Carl Shoupe and Stanley Sturgill, petitioned to designate the historic districts within the cities of Benham and Lynch, Kentucky and the viewshed from those historic districts, as well as the watersheds that supply the water supply sources for those cities, as unsuitable for all types of surface coal mining operations.
The petition was rejected by the Energy and Environment Cabinet. In late November, 2018, the Secretary of the Cabinet issued a final order overturning the Cabinet decision, and directing that the 2010 Petition be refiled for consideration by the Cabinet. The petition, identified as Lands Unsuitable For Mining (LUM) 10-1, has been refiled with the Cabinet.
The City of Lynch operates a water treatment and distribution system which is supplied from an underground mine reservoir recharged by the Gap Branch and Looney Creek watersheds, which could be directly and adversely affected by increases in sedimentation and mineralization of runoff into those watersheds associated with strip mining operations. Additionally, the towns have invested significant time and effort in developing an educational and tourism economy grounded in the rich cultural and historical traditions associated with underground coal mining during the first half of the 20th century, and those investments will be jeopardized by allowing surface coal mining operations to be conducted within the viewshed of the historic districts of Benham and Lynch.
The Cabinet has opened a comment period on whether to grant the petition, and has set a public hearing on the petition for March 29, 2019 at 2 p.m. at 300 Sower Boulevard, Frankfort, in Conference Rooms A-C. Written comments must be received by April 1, 2019. Comments should be sent to Jeff Baird, Director, Division of Mine Permits, 300 Sower Boulevard, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601, or firstname.lastname@example.org.