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State Regulators Seek Public Comment Before Citing Estill County Landfill

Bill Hughes

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet says it will seek public comment on any potential enforcement actions stemming from the disposal of low-level radioactive fracking waste disposed in an Estill County landfill.

Earlier this year, state officials acknowledged that radioactive waste from natural gas drilling operations in West Virginia had ended up at the Blue Ridge Landfill in Irvine, Kentucky. The Blue Ridge Landfill is operated by Advanced Disposal; the company has said it didn’t knowingly accept any illegal waste.

The cabinet issued a notice of violation in March, and is currently is in “active discussions” with Advanced Disposal on what — if any — enforcement action should be taken.

The closed-door nature of the negotiations worried some Estill County citizens, who banded together last month to form a group called the Concerned Citizens of Estill County.One of the group’s concerns was that members wanted more involvement in the process, and a say in what remediation will be taken at the landfill.

In response to those concerns, Energy and Environment Secretary Charles Snavely announced Thursday that any potential agreement with Advanced Disposal would be released as a draft, and the cabinet would welcome comments and recommendations. Any public input would then be evaluated and potentially included in the order before it becomes finalized.

“We respect the desire of citizens of Estill County to want to have a say in how the waste material in this landfill is handled,” Snavely said in a news release.

Attorney Mary Cromer represents the Concerned Citizens of Estill County. She said the cabinet held a similar process in 2013, under the previous administration, when negotiating settlements with coal companies ICG and Frasure Creek.

In that case, she said the deal was finalized on the last day of the public comment period and the seeking of public input felt like it was just for show.

“We felt like our comments weren’t read,” she said. “It didn’t enrich the cabinet’s ability to settle a deal that really took into account the concerns of the citizens.”

Because of this experience, Cromer is cautious.

“I hope that’s not what they’re planning to do here,” she said. “If they’re really planning to look at what the public has to say and reopen the negotiations based on the input they get from those citizens who are directly affected by this waste, then it is a valid process.”

The Concerned Citizens of Estill County will hold a rally this Saturday from 5-8 p.m. at the football field at Estill County High School.