- Associated Press - Friday, May 16, 2014
Lawsuits halts Kentucky’s 1st hemp crop in decades

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Plans for Kentucky’s first hemp crop in decades so far have produced nothing but headaches.

A shipment of imported seeds was seized by U.S. customs officials, leading Kentucky’s Agriculture Department to sue the federal government. The dispute delayed plantings that were supposed to happen this week, and now universities that enthusiastically volunteered to research the crop’s potential are all of the sudden jittery because law enforcement is involved.

Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 when the government classified the crop as a controlled substance related to marijuana. But imported hemp products, such as clothing, foods and lotions, have been allowed, and the industry is growing in the United States.

In 2013, the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. reached $581 million, according to the California-based Hemp Industries Association. Much of the hemp comes from China, Canada and Europe.

With business booming, more than a dozen states wanted to see if they could cash in, too. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell crafted language in the federal farm bill that allowed states to start pilot growing projects this year.

In Kentucky, several universities planned on researching the viability of hemp, but state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who sued the federal government Wednesday over a seed shipment from Italy, said the legal entanglement has been “nerve-wracking” for the schools.

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Sierra Club: Coal ash pond at risk for disaster

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A coal ash storage site in central Kentucky near Herrington Lake is at risk for a potential disaster, according to a Sierra Club report.

State environmental officials responded Thursday that ground water near the E.W. Brown Generating Station is being evaluated and the ash site is in the process of being cleaned up.

The LG&E-owned; power plant near Harrodsburg stores about 26 million tons of coal ash in a 126-acre pond. Ash is no longer dumped at the site.

The Sierra Club included the Kentucky site in a report on hazardous coal ash sites around the country. State officials said Thursday that tests have shown elevated levels of arsenic coming from nearby springs.

“Protecting the health of the local community is critical, and the state must manage these contaminants,” Deborah Payne, health coordinator for the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, said in a news release. “When metals leach out of coal ash, they can move through groundwater into drinking water supplies, endangering public health.”

Dick Brown, a spokesman for Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet, said the site is properly permitted and regulated by the state’s Division of Water and Division of Waste Management. He said the agency is aware of elevated levels of arsenic coming from small springs near the site, and the power plant is taking steps to address the situation.

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