- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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July 9

Lexington Herald-Leader on plan for radioactive drilling waste dumped in Estill County:

Citizens should have a seat at the table as state officials negotiate a plan to protect the public from radioactive drilling waste that was transported from outside Kentucky and illegally dumped less than a mile from the Kentucky River at a solid-waste landfill in Estill County.

Members of the newly formed Concerned Citizens of Estill County, who say they feel left in the dark and frightened for the future, are right to demand a part in talks between state environmental regulators and Advanced Disposal, the Florida-based owner of the Blue Ridge Landfill.

Multiply their fears and anger many times over, and you get a sense of what happens when nobody plans for how to clean up after an energy extraction boom.

New drilling technologies that sparked increased oil and natural gas production from shale also produce a much greater volume of waste. The unsavory leftovers include dirt, water, pipe and equipment that is contaminated with varying levels of radioactivity from contact with shale and rock brought to the surface by drilling. The waste also is contaminated with chemicals, both naturally occurring and those mixed with water and sand and applied at high pressure to fracture or frack the shale and liberate the gas and oil.

Like coal ash from power plants, the federal government does not classify drilling waste as hazardous and leaves its regulation to the states.

A coalition of environmental groups has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking tougher regulation of drilling wastes that pose a threat to public health or the environment. It shouldn’t take a lawsuit for the EPA to get moving on this.

Looming north and east of Kentucky are millions of gallons and mountains of fracking waste. Kentucky bans the importation of radioactive waste, except under a compact with Illinois. Such waste is supposed to be shipped to specially designed landfills. But that didn’t stop companies in other states from hiring a Kentucky company based in Morgan County, Advanced TENORM, to dispose of sludge in Kentucky that was too radioactive to be allowed in Pennsylvania or West Virginia.

The citizens who have organized in Estill County to demand answers are justified in their misgivings, considering the sluggish response by Kentucky regulators after being notified in July 2015, a year ago, that West Virginia had approved a plan for radioactive sludge to be dumped in Estill County. For the next six months, there was no apparent follow-up by Kentucky’s Radiation Health Branch, part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, or the Division of Waste Management in the Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Not until February, seven months after first being alerted, did Kentucky regulators put landfills on notice that radioactive shipments could be heading their way. By then, almost 2,000 tons of radioactive material - 47 loads, according to a state citation - had been unloaded in Estill County, where it reportedly was spread, like municipal garbage, as landfill cover. Documents accompanying the shipments describe the waste as suitable for disposal as regular solid waste.

The state also cited Green Valley Landfill in Greenup County for accepting 26 loads or 368.5 tons of radioactive waste.

There’s no threat to the public now, according to state testing, although workers who handled the material were at risk.

The level of radioactivity in the waste is low, similar to what’s normally in the air in some parts of Kentucky, but it has a half-life of 1,600 years while landfill liners are warranted to last 25 years and landfills are required to be monitored for groundwater contamination for only 30 years after closing.

The hodgepodge of state oversight, the dearth of federal regulation and the lack of safe disposal alternatives guarantee that other places have become unwitting hosts to radioactive waste and other poisons left from drilling. Maybe Estill County residents are lucky to have discovered the risk that was illegally dumped in their midst. They darn sure have a right to be part of planning for how to protect themselves and their descendants from possible ill effects. And, by involving the public on the front end, Gov. Matt Bevin and Energy and Environment Secretary Charles Snavely may spare the state a citizens lawsuit after a settlement is announced.

Online:

https://www.kentucky.com

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July 10

The Bowling Green Daily News on the Barren River Area Development District:

We have stated before that we believe that the Barren River Area Development District plays an important role in our city and the counties it serves.

The organization has had its share of problems in the past few years, most recently its attempt to avoid repaying the Kentucky Department of Aging and Independent Living $82,976,14 that DAIL claims was incorrectly used to pay BRADD salary bonuses from 2009 to 2014.

BRADD hired local attorney David Broderick to challenge DAIL in regard to this matter.

We wrote in a previous editorial that we believe BRADD would be better off in the long run by just paying what the agency owed DAIL, and it was announced Tuesday that BRADD will, in fact, repay the money.

While we were critical of the BRADD for continuing to fight against paying DAIL, we must give credit where credit is due and that is giving the BRADD board credit for its decision to pay DAIL what it is owed.

Allegations were made by BRADD Executive Director Rodney Kirtley that the BRADD board was under pressure by DAIL Commissioner Deborah Anderson and Gov. Matt Bevin to pay these funds. Kirtley said Anderson said the services to the BRADD would be pulled if the money wasn’t paid back to the state. Anderson disputed Kirtley’s claim, saying that it was clearly stated that was not their intent.

Regardless of whose version is correct, it was in everyone’s interest for this matter to be resolved.

Metcalfe County Judge-Executive Greg Wilson, the BRADD chairman, helped this deal with DAIL come together and should be applauded for doing so. Wilson said when Bevin decided to take the DAIL responsibility from the Lexington-based Bluegrass Development District in light of a problem of how federal funds were used there, “the status-quo changed” for the BRADD and its DAIL money fight.

At the end of the day, the BRADD board took the appropriate step by agreeing to pay back DAIL these funds. The ongoing fight over these funds would’ve continued to put a dark cloud over the organization. It would have also been costly with no guarantee BRADD would prevail.

On Wednesday, Kirtley announced his retirement in a letter to the BRADD board members. He announced his reason for his retirement as disagreement with the BRADD board for agreeing to pay DAIL the contested fees.

Now that Kirtley is leaving the position, our hope is that under new leadership BRADD can deliver services to the counties it serves without the turmoil seen over the past few years.

We commend them on agreeing to pay back these funds and wish them the best under new leadership in the future.

Online:

https://www.bgdailynews.com

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July 11

The Kentucky New Era on the removal of former Gov. Steve Beshear’s wife’s name from Capitol Education Center:

Last week we learned Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration removed former first lady Jane Beshear’s name from a building on the grounds of the Kentucky Capitol.

There hasn’t been much offered to explain why the Beshear name was erased from the Capitol Education Center, but the rift between Bevin and his predecessor, Gov. Steve Beshear, is no secret. Each has accused the other of corrupt governing, while the Beshears’ son, Attorney General Andy Beshear, leads legal challenges to Bevin’s cuts to the state budget and orders removing members of state boards. In addition, Bevin booted the former first lady from the Kentucky Horse Park Commission not long after her husband made the appointment.

Although we wish elected officials weren’t so quick to bestow privileges and honors on family members, we know Gov. Beshear named the Capitol Education Center for his wife because he said she was largely responsible for landing donations to equip facility. This included a $250,000 gift from Duke Energy. The building previously housed mechanical equipment but had been vacant before it became the Capitol Education Center. It’s now a welcoming center for guests on the capitol grounds.

Granted, we frequently see elected officials naming taxpayer-funded buildings, bridges and roads for political figures and wonder why they haven’t considered a luminary from another walk of life - such as an educator, an inventor or an artist. Even though some politicians who are memorialized in this way are influential and exemplary, there are times when this tradition seems too self-serving.

In the same way, the Bevin administration’s decision to pull Jane Beshear’s name from a state capitol building last week appears to be a self-serving move. Bevin and the Beshears are at odds, and since Bevin’s the one in office now, he has the authority to do this. But simply having the authority to do something doesn’t mean it is advisable or in good taste.

Imagine how confusing and irritating it would be if more of our public places went through name changes based on the political winds of the day. Think of all the state parkways that have been named for politicians - including our Pennyrile Parkway with the added Edward T. Breathitt designation in honor of the Hopkinsville Democrat who served as Kentucky’s governor from 1963-67. Oak Grove has a library named for the former mayor, Colleen Ochs, a name chosen by her husband, Dan Potter, who followed her as mayor.

And in Hopkinsville, there’s the James E. Bruce Convention Center - which, by the way, saw a brief period of controversy when the late Kentucky lawmaker’s colleagues tied state funding strings to their desire that the facility be named for Bruce. Thank goodness no one in Hopkinsville tried to retract the name after Bruce died or after some of his supporters had left the state House. That would have been vindictive and tacky.

Political battles will come and go. A conflict that seems significant and worth the fight today might not pass that test in 20 or 30 years. Removing Jane Beshear’s name from a state building looks like an over-reaction - and over-reach - by Bevin.

Online:

https://www.kentuckynewera.com

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