State News in Brief

Coal company cited after weekend spill affected creek

MAYKING (AP) — The water of an Eastern Kentucky creek has turned red due to mine discharge, but state officials say the discharge isn’t responsible for dead wildlife in the creek.

Kentucky Energy and Environment spokesman John Mura tells WFPL-FM that mine activity at Hardshell Tipples in Letcher County overflowed a retention pond on Friday, sending the iron-laced water into Pine Creek.

State officials issued three violations to the company, and are continuing to monitor to see if the company is complying with regulations that prohibit discharging mine waste into water supplies.

Tarence Ray of nonprofit Appalachian Voices says there are dead fish and turtles in the creek. Mura says the state doesn’t believe the spill caused the animal deaths.

The company is treating the spill by putting soda ash into the retention pond.

Hardshell Tipples couldn’t be reached for comment.


$4.5 billion road plan has money for Mountain Pkwy, I-75

FRANKFORT (AP) — House Democrats have proposed a two-year, $4.5 billion spending plan on roads and bridges.

The proposal includes 1,239 total projects, although not all of the projects will be built. About $1 billion will come from state gas tax dollars. The rest will be from federal funds and other sources.

Major projects include $159 million to continue expanding the Mountain Parkway through Wolfe, Martin, Magoffin and Floyd counties. It also includes money to build an interchange on Interstate 65 in Bullitt County, design work for a bridge spanning the Ohio River on I-69 in Henderson County and $128 million to widen I-75 in Rockcastle County.

Republicans opposed the bill, arguing they did not have enough time to review it and accusing Democrats of not paying for projects in their districts.


Proposal would have Ky. colleges compete for funding

FRANKFORT (AP) — The universities of Kentucky and Louisville already compete with each other for basketball titles, now they might have to compete for something else: state funding.

Senate Republicans outlined a proposal on Tuesday that would pit the two schools against each other in a competition of various education standards. The winner would get 100 percent of their budget allocation while the loser would get less. The competition would only apply to 25 percent of an institution’s state funding.

The state’s two research universities would compete with each other, while the five other state schools that offer four-year degrees would compete among themselves. Kentucky’s system of 16 community and technical colleges would compete in a third tier. Kentucky State University would be exempt.

Schools would be rewarded for producing more degrees in science, technology, engineering, math and health fields.


Kentucky’s AG sues Volkswagen for emissions-rigging scheme

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Volkswagen on Tuesday, claiming the German automaker’s diesel emissions cheating scheme violated the state’s consumer protection law.

The lawsuit, filed in a state court, seeks civil penalties potentially totaling millions of dollars, plus restitution for the owners of nearly 3,800 vehicles registered in Kentucky, Beshear said.

“We have a very strong law that is meant to prevent companies like this … from making an outright lie that they then use to sell what’s a pretty expensive product,” Beshear said at a state Capitol news conference.

Kentucky’s suit continues the fallout against Volkswagen since its admission last year that nearly 600,000 cars were sold in the U.S. with software that regulators say was designed to cheat on required emissions tests.

Beshear said Volkswagen must be held accountable for false promotion of its vehicles in Kentucky.

“They convinced Kentuckians that wanted to own a ‘green’ vehicle that they were buying one,” the Democratic attorney general said. “All the while their cheat devices were convincing the public that these vehicles were clean when they in fact were not.”

A VW spokeswoman, Jeannine Ginivan, said Tuesday that the company typically doesn’t comment on litigation. Volkswagen is working with federal environmental regulators and others to resolve the matter as quickly as possible, she said.

Kentucky’s suit was filed in Franklin County Circuit Court in Frankfort.

Four other states — Texas, New Mexico, New Jersey and West Virginia — have filed separate lawsuits against the automaker, according to Beshear’s office.

The company potentially faces more than $20 billion in fines from state and federal regulators, as well as hundreds of class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of angry vehicle owners.

Volkswagen in September admitted to U.S. regulators that it had used illegal software installed in its so-called “Clean Diesel” engines. The move allowed cars to pass laboratory emissions tests while spewing levels of harmful nitrogen oxide at up to 40 times the level allowed when operating on real roads.

The automaker’s lone U.S. plant is in Tennessee.


Trial date moved for man accused of killing toddler

GLASGOW (AP) — A man accused of killing a 2-year-old girl in Barren County has had his trial moved to the end of the year.

Media outlets report that a judge on Monday set a Dec. 6 trial date in the case of 26-year-old Anthony Dale Barbour, who is facing murder and other charges in connection with the death of Laynee Wallace last year. The trial date had earlier been set for April.

Wallace’s body was found inside a well in Barren County on May 25, a week after she disappeared.

Barbour is also charged with tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse.

Ken Garrett, Barbour’s attorney, filed a motion for a speedy trial on Friday, prompting the judge to order DNA analysis of evidence to be completed by July 1.


Judge dismisses lawsuit over Lexington playhouse restriction

LEXINGTON (AP) — A Lexington homeowners group and the U.S. Justice Department have agreed to drop a lawsuit over a boy’s playhouse that the family said was needed to help with the child’s therapy.

U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell dismissed the case on Monday in Lexington. The parties stipulated that the evidence didn’t support the Justice Department’s claims.

The lawsuit had accused Andover Forest Homeowners Association and EMG Management Services of violating the federal Fair Housing Act by failing to make reasonable accommodations for George and Tiffiney Veloudis and their toddler son.

The Veloudises installed a $5,000 playhouse for their son at their then-home in the Andover Forest subdivision, but the homeowners association believed it violated deed restrictions.

A number in an online phone listing for the family went unanswered Monday night.


Glass fiber manufacturer to expand plant, will add 32 jobs

FRANKFORT (AP) — A statement from Gov. Matt Bevin’s office says Superior Composites has broken ground on an expansion at its Vanceburg facility that will add 20,000 square feet and 32 jobs.

The plant in Lewis County manufactures glass fiber reinforcements that are used in a variety of markets including automotive and marine components and specialty pipe.

Bevin said in the statement on Monday that the expansion is a sign that Kentucky is still “a national leader in manufacturing growth.”

Superior Composites CEO Kenn Moritz says the $2.5 million expansion will bring the facility to 156,000 square feet and will help the company meet the growing needs of its customers. Company officials say they expect the project to be completed by the end of summer.


Jefferson County elementary suspensions rise dramatically

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Suspensions at Jefferson County public elementary schools have jumped more than 80 percent this year, already surpassing the number of suspensions handed down during any school year in at least the past decade.

The Courier-Journal reports that more than 900 kindergarten through fifth-grade students have been sent home on suspension at least once so far this school year.

Jefferson County Assistant Superintendent Joe Leffert says the reasons behind this year’s increase are unclear. He says “schools are following the code of conduct.”

District data shows that fighting accounted for more than half of the elementary suspensions.

The number of suspensions still represents only a small fraction of elementary students in JCPS — about 2 percent. That percentage is not out of line with national trends of elementary suspensions.

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