News in Brief


Coal mining company hit with fine that could reach $3.25M

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet has agreed to levy a stiff fine against a coal mining company that acknowledged thousands of Clean Water Act violations, effectively barring the company from operating in Kentucky in the future.

Frasure Creek Mining and its parent companies, Trinity Coal and New Trinity, will immediately pay the state $500,000, The Independent of Ashland reports. An additional fine of $2.75 million will be levied if any of the companies applies for mining permits in Kentucky in the future.

The agreement came in the final hours of outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration Monday and followed a five-year battle by a coalition of environmental groups.

In 2010, state officials reached a $310,000 proposed settlement with the company, but environmental groups argued that the fines weren’t high enough.

Ted Withrow of Morehead, one of the environmentalists who first brought the violations to the attention of the state in October of 2010, praised the new settlement.

“After a half of a decade of effort to bring this outlaw company into compliance with the law, this agreement shows what the Energy and Environment Cabinet can accomplish working with the citizens the cabinet is charged with protecting,” said Withrow, who is also a former member of the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet.

The new order has been signed by Cabinet officials and attorneys for the companies and environmental groups that first brought the violations to light. It will become final when filed in the cabinet’s administrative court.

Frasure Creek at one time was the largest surface mining operator in Kentucky, according to data collected by Appalachian Voices, but no longer operates any active mining sites. It remains responsible for un-reclaimed sites in several eastern Kentucky counties.

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Convicted ex-coal CEO asks if he can go home for holidays

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — After being convicted on a misdemeanor, ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship wants to go home for the holidays.

A defense filing Tuesday asks U.S. District Judge Irene Berger if Blankenship can return to Nevada from Dec. 19 through Jan. 5 to be with his fiancee and their families.

His travel is restricted to southern West Virginia, Pike County, Kentucky, and Washington, D.C.

Blankenship was found guilty Thursday of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety rules, punishable by one year maximum in prison. He was acquitted on felonies that could have stretched his sentence to 30 years.

Another Blankenship motion Tuesday says his $5 million bond should drop to $250,000. He also wants travel restrictions and a ban on contacting certain former Massey employees to be nullified.

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Alpha, West Virginia resolve mine reclamation bond dispute

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Coal operator Alpha Natural Resources and West Virginia regulators have agreed on a deal resolving a dispute over the company’s mine reclamation bonds.

Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha asked a bankruptcy court on Monday to approve a consent order with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Alpha’s filing says the company issued self-bonds to cover more than $244 million in reclamation obligations. After Alpha filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August, it told the DEP that it might no longer meet criteria for self-bonding. The agency ordered Alpha to replace the self bonds with other forms of bonding.

Under the consent order, Alpha agreed to reduce its self-bonded obligations and to continue reclaiming mining operations. Alpha also will provide $39 million in financial commitments to back its remaining self-bonded obligations.

“The consent order provides substantial additional financial assurance that Alpha will continue to perform its reclamation obligations in West Virginia, even as it considers its options to restructure its operations in bankruptcy,” DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said Tuesday in a news release.

Alpha’s filing said the company believes that the DEP does not have the authority under bankruptcy law to require it to post a commercial bond or collateral to cover the self-bonded obligations. But the company said it is not certain it would prevail if it litigated the dispute.

If the dispute is not resolved, the DEP likely would seek to revoke Alpha’s permits and not issue any new ones, which could create permitting issues in other states. Alpha has more than 500 mining permits for its operations in the state, the company’s filing said.

In October, the bankruptcy court approved an agreement between Alpha and Wyoming resolving a reclamation bonding dispute in that state. The agreement gave Wyoming priority access to $61 million in case either or both of Alpha’s two coal mines there closed and needed to be reclaimed.

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Ohio patrol: trucker accused of shooting other semitrailer

TIPP CITY, Ohio (AP) — The State Highway Patrol says a semitrailer driver is accused of firing into the cab of another trucker’s semitrailer with a 9mm handgun in a suspected road-rage shooting in western Ohio.

The Dayton Daily News reports patrol Sgt. Frank Simmons Jr. of the Dayton patrol post says no one was injured by the shot apparently fired by a Kentucky driver into a semitrailer driven by a Michigan man.

Simmons said authorities don’t know what led to the shooting. He says state and federal charges are possible.

Simmons says the Michigan trucker called the patrol around 9 p.m. Tuesday and reported another semitrailer driver was harassing him.

The patrol says the shooting occurred near the Tipp City exit of I-75 in the area of the Montgomery County-Miami County line.

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Illegal parkers have given 4,200 cans of food for hungry

LEXINGTON (AP) — More than 4,200 food items have been collected during the first few weeks of the Lexington Parking Authority’s program that lets motorists pay their parking fine with food donations for a food bank.

Food for Fines runs from Nov. 16 through Dec. 18.

Anyone bringing in 10 cans of food will get $15 off a parking citation. Past-due citations are eligible, and there’s no limit on the number of cans people with multiple citations can bring in.

The food is being donated to God’s Pantry Food Bank.

Parking Authority Executive Director Gary A. Means says he’s honored the agency is able to let people take care of parking citations and help people in need at the same time.

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Initiative focuses on behavioral health of foster children

FRANKFORT (AP) — State officials say a new initiative will lead to better behavioral health care for children in the foster care system.

A statement from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says the agency will begin implementing a pilot program early next year to screen children in Fayette, Boyd and surrounding counties entering foster care for behavior health issues. The agency says the project is expected to expand to half the state by the middle of 2016 and to every county by 2018.

The initiative is being paid for with a $2.5 million, five-year federal grant from the U.S. Administration on Children, Youth and Families.

Kentucky Department for Community Based Services Commissioner Teresa James said foster children are more likely to have behavioral health concerns that affect development.

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Lincoln Co. family’s service dog is back home

STANFORD (AP) — A Lincoln County family’s service dog, Radar, has reappeared after being gone for three days.

WKYT-TV reports owner Jason Cooper said he saw what appeared to be a dog across the street on a neighbor’s farm Tuesday afternoon. Cooper called out the dog’s name, Radar’s head popped up and Cooper knew it was his missing dog.

The yellow lab was trained by the Make a Wish Foundation to keep the family’s daughter, Madelyn, safe during seizures. Carolyn Cooper, Madelyn’s mother, says when Madelyn died, Radar tried to board the ambulance with her.

Jason Cooper said social media attracted help from people across the country, and he says he wants to thank them.

After Radar went missing Saturday, Jason Cooper said he felt like he had lost another child.

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GM plans another expansion at Corvette plant in Ky.

BOWLING GREEN (AP) — General Motors says it will spend $44 million to increase engine-building capacity at the Kentucky plant that makes Corvette sports cars.

The automaker said Wednesday that it will add 36 jobs as part of the investment to expand capacity in the Performance Build Center at the Bowling Green Assembly plant. It says construction and tool rearrangement is scheduled to start next month.

GM says the increased capacity is fueled by the success of the Corvette Z06, which accounts for nearly one-third of all Corvettes produced at the plant in south-central Kentucky.

Plant manager Kai Spande says GM has committed $483 million to the Bowling Green plant this year.

In May, the company said it was spending $439 million for a new paint shop and facility upgrades.

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Foundation taking applications for 2016-17 scholarships

LOUISVILLE (AP) — The Community Foundation of Louisville plans to award up to $1 million in college scholarships, and it is taking applications now.

The foundation says most applications are due by Feb. 15 for the 2016-17 academic year.

Awards range from $500 to $10,000 and represent more than 80 funds included in the foundation.

A news release from the foundation says its online system uses applicants’ general information to match them to potential scholarship options.

To see the complete list of scholarships and begin an application, visit http://www.cflouisville.org/scholarships . For more information, contact Ebony O’Rea at (502) 855-6971 or [email protected]

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