environment

Salmonella Outbreak Killing Kentucky Songbirds

Apr 8, 2021
Kevin Stevenson

A salmonella outbreak has songbirds dropping dead near backyard bird feeders in at least eight states across the country, including Kentucky, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least one person has fallen ill in the commonwealth and another 18 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., according to the CDC

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources began receiving reports in early January.  It has confirmed cases of salmonella in songbirds found in Bullitt, Calloway and Washington counties.

“It is very possible it is across the state,” said state wildlife veterinarian Dr. Christine Casey. “If you see sick or dying birds at your feeder, take your feeders down and clean them with a 10% bleach solution. Wait two weeks before you put them up.”

Ryan Van Velzer

The future of renewable energy in Kentucky, and who is going to pay for it, is taking shape at a hearing before Kentucky utility regulators.  

Kentucky Power is asking the Public Service Commission this week to lower the rates utilities pay residential solar customers for power they produce. That’s the billing system known as net metering, which credits utility customers for the excess power they put on the grid. 

On Tuesday, The Public Service Commission heard public comments and expert witness testimony from utilities on the value of net-metering during a hearing held remotely at the regulator’s headquarters in Frankfort.

USDA

This year, cicadas are vying for the song of the summer. After 17 years underground, billions of the bugs are scheduled to emerge across the eastern U.S. around early May.

Millions are likely to screech their love songs from the treetops in Kentucky, which sits squarely in the middle of the geographic range of the great eastern brood spanning from New York and Michigan down into Georgia, said Jonathon Larson, extension entomologist with the University of Kentucky. 

Unlike the annual cicadas known for providing the soundtrack to a sunset in the dog days of summer, this year’s periodic cicadas belong to Brood X.

Ryan Van Velzer

While Louisville Gas & Electric was asking utility regulators permission to build a 12-mile-long natural gas pipeline through Bullitt County at ratepayers expense, internal utility records projected that nearly all of the additional gas would go to just one customer — Beam Suntory, the makers of Jim Beam Bourbon.

With the additional gas service, Beam Suntory would have become LG&E’s second-largest customer, after Ford, records show. 

Utility regulators granted LG&E approval to build the pipeline in 2017. Since then, however, the project has stalled amid a slew of pending permit approvals and lawsuits.

Bryce Baumann

A new bill in the Kentucky legislature could ban large-scale solar projects on farmland in the state, out of fears that the growing solar industry could be a detriment to the preservation of productive farmland. But a leading solar advocate in the state believes the bill is an overreaction and could significantly hamper the dawning solar industry. 

Republican State Sen. Steve West said the bill filed Monday is his way to address a long-term problem of increasing development destroying prime farmland for future generations, with large solar installations adding to that pressure. 

“What was once an income-producing property for the people of that county, is now possibly, you could say maybe an eyesore to the neighbor,” West said. He is also concerned that solar projects could degrade the farmland where projects are placed over time.

Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

A federal bankruptcy judge has denied a petition from former Blackjewel coal executive Jeff Hoops to liquidate the company. The decision means the reorganization of the company will continue under Chapter 11 bankruptcy as former employees, creditors and state agencies seek to recover millions owed by the company.

Hoops cited “permanent negative cash flow” at his former company, which has accrued at least $80 million in administrative and other expenses since its bankruptcy filing on July 1 last year. 

The nearly 3,000-filing-long Blackjewel bankruptcy docket demonstrates an 18-month scramble by the company’s creditors to recuperate as much money as possible from a too-small pot.

WFPL

Kentucky is set to receive about $10 million in federal funds from the Great American Outdoors Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund for improvements on and the expansion of public lands.  

The funds will help pay for a new roof on the Mammoth Cave Hotel. They’ll also be used to acquire a civil war battle site and lands for wildlife conservation and recreation in the Cumberland Plateau and along the Green River. 

“We continue to make progress to deliver on the purpose of this historic conservation legislation,” said said Margaret Everson, Chair of the Great American Outdoors Act Task Force in a press release. “We carefully evaluated each deferred maintenance project and land acquisition to maximize the return on investment for the American people and deliver on the promises of this unprecedented opportunity.”

Kentuckians Finding COVID Safe Places in Nature

Nov 16, 2020
Land Between the Lakes

Nature is receiving a boost during the COVID-19 pandemic. With more people confined to their homes and avoiding large crowds, the backyard is taking on new significance.

"A few simple steps can transform your space into a wildlife refuge, " said John Pollpeter, the lead naturalist with Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky. "Things like food, water, shelter, space are the four different things you need ot kind of consider, but one thing people can do is to leave a little space in your backyard, a little corner and maybe leave it a little wild, let it grow up a little bit and leave some...old logs, maybe an old tree, as long as it's safe, many animals can utilize that for their habitat."


Erica Peterson

Environmental and community advocates in Appalachian coal communities are concerned about a new federal rule, finalized this week, that is changing the process that allows citizens to file complaints about polluting coal mining operations.

The Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement said in a Tuesday press release that the changes to the 10-Day Notice policy would “streamline” the complaint process. 

Under federal law and agency regulations, anyone can notify the agency about alleged mining violations. Under the original rule, the agency would share the complaint with state regulators. That kicked off a 10-day clock for the state to take action, either by forcing the company to fix the problem, or showing why action wasn’t necessary.

Ned Pillersdorf

Environmental advocates worry a coal company liquidation plan will leave dozens of coal permits in eastern Kentucky unreclaimed, according to filings in the bankruptcy proceedings of Blackjewel L.L.C.

The bankruptcy case has dragged on since last July, when the once-mighty coal company’s Chapter 11 filing left hundreds of Appalachian coal miners suddenly without work, and without weeks of pay. Now the company has until the end of 2020 to exit bankruptcy, and to do that, it needs the court to approve the very liquidation plan that has environmentalists concerned.

Benny Becker

Ohio environmental regulators have canceled key permits needed for an underground natural gas liquids storage facility proposed along the Ohio River. 

According to an order from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, permits to drill three three Class III solution mining wells in Monroe County, Ohio were cancelled on Sept. 21. Cancellation was requested by Powhatan Salt Company LCC. The proposed wells are associated with the Mountaineer NGL Storage project, a multi-million dollar underground natural gas liquids storage project. 

Experts say natural gas liquid storage — like the proposed Mountaineer project — is crucial to building out the Ohio Valley’s petrochemical industry.

J. Tyler Franklin

As the nation decides which party will control the Senate this November, the race in Kentucky stands out for one big reason: It features Mitch McConnell.

Loathed by Democrats across the country as a cynical power broker, but praised by Republicans as a shrewd political tactician, the GOP’s longest-serving Senate majority leader faces a challenge from a well-funded retired Marine lieutenant colonel and fighter pilot who flew in 89 combat missions, including bombings of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

DNC video

Democrats made their pitch to the American people during a largely virtual Democratic National Convention and addressing climate change emerged as a central tenet of the party’s plan. 

The party platform spells out a major investment in green energy jobs and infrastructure in order for America to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emission no later than by 2050. Environmental justice is a key component of the Democrat’s climate plan and it references ensuring fossil fuel workers and communities receive investment and support during this clean energy transition.

 


Jeff Young

A proposal to repurpose a docking facility near Marietta, Ohio, to allow for the barging of oil and gas drilling waste on the Ohio River is drawing concern from environmental groups and local residents.

Ohio-based DeepRock Disposal Solutions LLC is seeking approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District to operate a barge offloading facility to transfer the waste to existing storage tanks. The proposal indicates the loading facility can accommodate a 300-foot-long barge that is 54 feet wide. 

It is the third barging proposal this year being considered by federal regulators. A proposal near Martins Ferry, Ohio, and one near Portland, Ohio, both to build new barging loading facilities have already been approved.

Brittany Patterson | Ohio Valley ReSource

On a recent sticky July afternoon, Diana Green stands on the muddy bank of lower Davis Creek in South Charleston, West Virginia.  

As a child, she enjoyed wading in the nearly 10-mile-long stream in search of crayfish and salamanders. As an adult, Green set down roots there, purchasing a farm that backs up to the creek. Seeing the waterway choked with trash and pollution, Green helped form a small community-based watershed group in the 1990s.

The Davis Creek Watershed Association has been dedicated to improving the environmental quality of the watershed, and 25 years later, she says they have largely succeeded. Several different fish species, from skipjack to bass live in the stream. 

 


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