- 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.


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.


Grimes predicts turnout of 30 percent or less

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky’s top election official expects less than 30 percent of registered voters will cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary elections.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said history shows officials should expect at least 32 percent of those registered to vote on Tuesday. But fewer absentee ballots have been requested this year, most likely because there are no local option questions on the ballot.

Grimes said voters could be turned off by the influx of negative political ads.

“They are tired of the negativity that they see. I think in general there is a voter fatigue out there right now,” Grimes said. “Our hope is that we will, especially with education, we will encourage everyone to get out and be an active, engaged citizen. With a record number of registrants in the commonwealth, our hope is we can rise above the prediction.”

Grimes and Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell have been doing their own negative campaigning recently as they are locked in one of the closest and most-watched Senate elections in the country. Grimes did not take campaign questions from reporters on Tuesday she said because she was speaking on state time in her official capacity as Secretary of State.

More than 39,000 people voted absentee in Kentucky in 2010. So far this year, more than 21,000 people have voted absentee or had ballots mailed to them.


Death of ambushed Ky. lawman unsolved year later

BARDSTOWN, Ky. (AP) - After a late-night shift, officer Jason Ellis was driving home when he had to pull his marked police cruiser over on a highway exit ramp and remove tree limbs blocking the road. When he got out of his car, authorities say someone ambushed him, shooting him multiple times with a shotgun.

A year later, his slaying is still unsolved, something that is rare in the U.S. Nearly all of the more than 900 officer killings during the last two decades have been solved, according to the FBI.

In Ellis’ case, authorities have not released many details. They won’t say whether anything was taken, or if the debris put in the road was intended to stop Ellis, any officer or just a random car.

“No one called anything in, nor did he call out on anything,” said Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin. “It was as routine and ordinary as it comes.”

From 1996 to 2012, more than 900 law enforcement officers were intentionally killed, according to the FBI. Only 16 of those slayings have gone unsolved, including eight in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the FBI said.

One reason behind the high success rate is the constant communication between officers and dispatchers, said Bill Doerner, a criminal justice professor at Florida State University. Police gain valuable information from the back-and-forth, something that didn’t happen in the Ellis case because he had signed off after his shift ended about 2 a.m.



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