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Hearing Information

EPA Region 4 held a series of public hearings to allow interested persons to submit oral or written comments and data regarding EPA’s specific objections to 36 Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) mine-related discharge permits.

The hearings were held:

Those who wish to participate in the hearings can register in advance using the online registration form exiting EPA or by calling 703-577-4953. On-site registration will begin one hour prior to the beginning of each hearing.

Additional information about the locations and procedures for the hearings can be found on the logistics page.

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Background

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (“Cabinet”) is the permitting authority for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued in the Commonwealth of Kentucky pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The Cabinet’s NPDES program includes the issuance of NPDES permits by its Department for Environmental Protection, Division of Water (KDOW). Without such a permit, any discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States is prohibited.

Congress gave EPA the responsibility and authority in Section 402(d) of the Clean Water Act (further detailed in 40 CFR §123.44) to review a state’s draft NPDES permits for compliance with CWA regulations and requirements and to submit comments, objections and/or recommendations regarding the draft permits.

During 2010 and 2011, the KDOW sent to EPA for review many draft CWA NPDES permits. These included draft permits for a variety of coal mining-related discharges, including new, existing or expanding underground mines, coal preparation plants, and surface mines. Recent estimates from KDOW indicate that since August 2009 the KDOW has issued individual NPDES permits for approximately 87 surface mine-related projects and 28 underground mines or coal preparation plants. Additionally the KDOW has granted discharge authorization to approximately 2,500 new and existing coal mining related projects.

EPA’s review of the 36 listed draft NPDES permits resulted in specific objections to each of the draft permits. EPA’s specific objection letters identified the reasons for the objections and the actions that must be taken by KDOW to meet those objections. In each case, EPA found that KDOW had provided an incomplete analysis as to whether or not the proposed discharges had a reasonable potential to cause or contribute to a violation of Kentucky’s water quality standards. These incomplete analyses support EPA's conclusion that the KDOW was not able to demonstrate that the permits contained effluent limits necessary to ensure that the proposed discharges would not cause or contribute to violations of Kentucky’s water quality standards. NPDES permitting authorities like KDOW are required to do this for all permits in accordance with the CWA at 33 U.S.C. § 1311(b)(1)(C) and EPA's regulations at 40 CFR § 122.44(d) and 40 CFR § 122.4((a) and (d)).

After careful consideration of all oral and written comments, data and the requirements of the Clean Water Act and applicable regulations, EPA will reaffirm, modify the terms of, or withdraw each of the objections. For permits for which EPA either reaffirms the original objection or modifies the terms of the objection, KDOW must, within 30 days, submit to EPA a revised permit that meets the terms of the remaining objection, or exclusive authority to issue the permit passes to EPA for one permit term. For any permits for which EPA withdraws its objection, KDOW may proceed with the permit issuance process.

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