Ky. lawmaker files bill requiring emergency plans for high-risk - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ky. lawmaker files bill requiring emergency plans for high-risk coal-ash dams

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky would require emergency action plans for high-hazard coal-ash ponds under a bill filed by a Louisville lawmaker last week.

The legislation sponsored by Democrat Rep. Joni Jenkins also would mandate that permitted landfills and impoundments for the coal waste have protective liners and other controls and receive regular monitoring for toxic substances.

Jenkins' bill seeks to "balance the health and safety of the public and the environment with the safe, efficient beneficial reuse of CCRs," or coal combustion residual materials such as fly ash and coal slag that are produced when coal is burned to generate power.

Jenkins introduced a similar measure two years ago that died in the House Natural Resources and Environment committee, where her most recent bill has been assigned.

Kentucky is home to seven impoundments with CCRs – one in Louisville – that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates as potentially high-hazard because a failure will "probably" result in the loss of life. (The rating doesn't mean a dam is structurally poor or indicate that failure is likely.)

The EPA has yet to set final rules for handling coal ash waste.

 The high-hazard coal-ash dams in Kentucky, according to the EPA, are:

  • An ash pond at Louisville Gas & Electric's Cane Run generating station in Jefferson County
  • A gypsum stacking facility and two ash ponds at LG&E's sister company, Kentucky Utilities' Ghent generating station in Carroll County
  • Two ash ponds at Kentucky Utilities' E.W. Brown Station in Mercer County
  • A fly ash pond at American Electric Power's Big Sandy plant in Lawrence County

None of Kentucky Utilities' high-hazard dams in Carroll or Mercer counties have emergency action plans, according to documents the Kentucky Division of Water provided under an open records request in November. The LG&E and American Electric Power facilities were not included in the state's list.

Liz Pratt, a spokeswoman for LG&E and KU, said she wasn't familiar with the state list but that the utilities have emergency plans for its Mill Creek, Dix Dam and Cane Run dams that have been updated and discussed with local emergency officials.

"The current impoundment emergency action plans for Ghent and E.W. Brown are in the process of being updated and will be shared with the appropriate local emergency management authorities in early 2014," Pratt said in an email.

American Electric Power has an emergency plan for the Big Sandy plant that has been filed with state and county officials, spokeswoman Melissa McHenry said in a statement.

Federal and state safety officials, along with regional engineering groups, have urged owners of high-hazard dams to adopt emergency plans in recent years. The plans typically include emergency contact information, detailed directions for first responders, evacuation maps and contact information for residents in the probable path of flood waters or spilled debris.

The plans are "strongly" recommended by the National Dam Safety Review Board.

Jenkins' bill asks the Energy and Environmental Cabinet to develop regulations for the plans based on Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines. The plans also would define the responsibilities of local, state and federal agencies in the event of an emergency.

Most of Kentucky's high-hazard dams lack the plans, including only 8 percent of the impoundments regulated by the Division of Water and a "small number of plans" submitted voluntarily by coal interests to the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources.

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