"Rally for the Rivers" Ongoing KY Movement
WINCHESTER, Ky. - A weekend "Rally for the Rivers" is turning into an ongoing campaign to get Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to strengthen enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act. Protesters gathered near the Kentucky River in Clark County to draw attention to the mercury and other toxic pollutants they say are being emitted by a nearby coal-fired power plant.
Sierra Club member and community activist Billy Edwards says the weekend rally is just the start of activists' pressure to get the state to better protect Kentucky's waterways.
"We just want them to enforce the laws to help clean up the river, so that we won't have a situation as a dying river - which it is."
The groups say the water pollution from mines and coal ash dumps endangers aquatic life, stunts vegetation and threatens drinking water and recreation opportunities on the river for people.
Edwards says thousands of Central Kentucky residents downstream will be affected.
"And if the contamination continues, it's going to cost us all more money just to clean that water so we can use it for our daily use."
Governor Beshear has publicly balked at EPA regulations that he views as unreasonable and potentially job-crushing. His administration has joined in a lawsuit with the Kentucky Coal Association against tighter pollution controls.
Edwards and other protesters think he's off-base on this issue.
"And, I try to get people to remember what EPA stands for: it's Environmental Protection Agency. That means they're there to protect the environment that we all live in. And I'm offended by any governor, or government agency, or anything, trying to take that protection away from us."
In a prepared statement, Governor Beshear defended his actions in enforcing federal clean water rules. He said he's worked with researchers and the coal industry to develop alternative mining practices, and that his administration has inspected mine operations and wastewater-testing labs to ensure they obey permit requirements.