Kentucky Heartwood Challenges Bledsoe Coal Lease   

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In December 2012, Kentucky Heartwood submitted comments on the Forest Service’s Environmental Analysis (EA) for the Bledsoe Coal Lease on the Redbird District of the Daniel Boone NF in Leslie County. If approved, the project would allow the underground mining of 455,080 metric tons of federal coal and its removal via an existing portal on private land. Despite the well-reported downturn in coal, the EA states “the need for the project is to assist in addressing the national need for coal.”

Bledsoe Coal, the company that is seeking the lease, received some notoriety when, in April 2011, it was one of the first two companies since passage of the 1977 Mine Act to be subject to a “Pattern of Violations enforcement action” by the Mine Safety and Health Administration due to the company’s unwillingness to address numerous safety violations in their Abner Branch Mine, not far from the Bledsoe Coal Lease.

In June of 2012, MSHA inspectors performed a surprise inspection of the Abner Branch Mine, and issued 19 citations and 12 withdrawal orders, shutting the mine down for eight days. According to MSHA “If left uncorrected, these conditions… could cause or contribute to a coal dust explosion.”

The EA was focused on cheerleading for the coal industry and downplaying negative effects of coal extraction, particularly by ignoring the cumulative and indirect effects of burning the coal and disposal of coal ash. While the EA reported 57,740 metric tons per year of direct and indirect CO2 emissions over the anticipated 3-year lease, when considering the effects of burning the coal, CO2 emissions jump to 491,583 tons of CO2 per year, or the equivalent of nearly 100,000 extra cars on the road. The EA similarly ignored SO2, NOx, and particulates, as well as environmental justice issues relating to coal ash disposal.

We are currently waiting for a decision from the Forest Service.

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