At its annual meeting last weekend, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth honored the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, its partner in a lawsuit against mountaintop removal coal companies operating in Eastern Kentucky, which had been providing false and misleading information to environmental regulators. The Clinic was given the “Long Hot Summer” Award for Groundbreaking Litigation.
Earlier this year, the Clinic and its local Kentucky counsel, representing Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Appalachian Voices, Kentucky Riverkeeper, and the Waterkeeper Alliance, started two lawsuits to enforce Clean Water Act permit requirements against two mountaintop removal coal companies. Just before the end of the 60-day notice period initiated by the Clinic’s Notices of Intent to Sue, the Kentucky Cabinet for Energy and Environment filed its own enforcement action in state court and simultaneously filed proposed consent judgements with the coal companies–a transparent action to preempt the Clinic’s intended citizen suits. The proposed settlements were inadequate to deter future illegal conduct by coal companies.
The Clinic’s motion to intervene in the Cabinet’s enforcement action was granted over the opposition of the Cabinet and the companies. After conducting discovery this spring and summer, the Clinic prepared for a hearing, which began in late August. The judge has reserved decision, and has ordered the parties back to mediation, expected to take place in the coming months.