Kentucky Regulators, Industry Reps Privately Rewrote Coal Ash Rules


By Erica Peterson

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Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet has finalized a controversial plan to let the state’s utilities virtually self-regulate the storing of hazardous coal ash near power plants.

As details about the plan emerged over the past few weeks, Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely defended the rules and the process, saying it included “full public participation.”

But documents obtained by WFPL News show the process was far from public and instead included more than a year of backroom meetings — under both former Gov. Steve Beshear and Gov. Matt Bevin — with representatives of the utility industry. During that time, documents show the regulations were significantly revised and weakened.

When regulators began meeting with representatives of the utility industry in September 2015, the regulations they had drafted (left) were extensive. By the time they submitted the drafts to the Legislative Research Commission in October 2016 (right), the regulations were weakened.

Environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, who has spent more than 44 years working in the state, and oftentimes on workgroups with members of industry and regulators to craft regulations, said to his knowledge, such one-sided input from industry is unprecedented in recent years.

“I think it’s unconscionable, and I think it does not reflect well on how little value [the regulators] place on public involvement in the development of regulations that are intended to protect the public,” FitzGerald said.

Representatives from the Energy and Environment Cabinet declined an interview request. In response to emailed questions, spokesman John Mura defended the cabinet’s regulatory process.

“As a part of the pre-KRS 13A deliberative process of regulation development, it is common for the state to informally discuss regulatory matters with the regulated sector that are directly impacted by those regulations,” Mura wrote.

He also pointed to a public comment period and a public hearing held in November 2016. After public comments were received, the agency made minor changes to the rule.

Dangers of Coal Ash

Coal ash — also called “coal combustion residuals,” or CCR — is the byproduct of burning coal for electricity. It’s often stored in dry landfills or wet ponds, or recycled into products like concrete or wall boards.

But it also contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic. And environmental advocates say that’s why it’s so important there’s adequate state and federal oversight over coal ash disposal.

“Coal ash is a toxic substance that if handled incorrectly can take human lives, can make people sick, can ruin the environment, lakes, rivers, streams, permanently,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans.

In the past decade, there have been two high-profile instances — in Kingston, Tennesee and Eden, North Carolina — where large-scale coal ash spills have contaminated miles of rivers and land. But there have also been numerous other cases where there have been smaller amounts of pollution, where coal ash has caused air problems or has leached chemicals into groundwater.

Kentucky Division of Waste Management geologist Todd Hendricks mentioned a few of those instances in public comments he made about the cabinet’s proposed coal ash rule:

“Analysis of groundwater and leachate from CCR units in Kentucky has shown elevated levels of heavy metals, sulfate, boron, and other contaminants. One facility is conducting groundwater corrective action for contamination of karst springs with arsenic leaching from an inactive surface impoundment. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated groundwater per day are captured and pumped to the active surface impoundment for dilution and discharge through a permitted outfall. At another facility, state laboratory analysis of one recent sample of fluid (presumably leachate) flowing from the toe of a closed CCR landfill showed 9.81 mg/L of arsenic, which is 981 times the maximum contaminant level (MCL).”

Coal ash wasn’t regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency until 2015. But with the publication of the first-ever federal coal ash rules in the Federal Register, the EPA set out new standards designed to be incorporated into states’ existing regulatory framework.

And that’s when the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet began working on the state’s version of the regulations.

Emails Show Industry-State Meetings

By its own admission, the Kentucky Division of Waste Management spent more than 1,600 hours working on the regulation in 2015, under former governor Steve Beshear.

On Sept. 3, 2015, regulators sat down with representatives from Kentucky’s utility industry. They screened a PowerPoint presentation on the current draft version of the rules. And on the 12th slide, regulators told the utility representatives that their facilities would no longer be able to qualify for a program called a “permit-by-rule” for coal ash sites. Instead, they would have to stop accepting coal ash into their landfills and ponds by Oct. 19, 2015, or get a permit for disposal.

That wasn’t the last meeting between regulators and industry representatives to discuss the coal ash rules. Emails obtained through an open records request show they met in person at least three more times — in October 2015, and April and June 2016.

State regulators shared drafts of the regulations with Tom Shaw, the environmental director of Big Rivers Electric Corporation, and Jack Bender, the attorney representing the Utility Information Exchange of Kentucky, an industry group. And both men sent regulators UIEK’s comments on the proposals multiple times, months before the agency took comments from the public.

Bender declined a request for additional comment, and Shaw didn’t respond to a voicemail message.

When regulators went into that meeting on Sept. 3, 2015, the draft CCR rules were extensive. They covered groundwater monitoring, inspections, technical specifications for recycling coal ash and plans for closing facilities.

But by the time the draft regulations were released to the public in October 2016, they didn’t contain any of those specifics. And the regulations proposed regulating the electric utilities with a “permit-by-rule” — the very mechanism that the state declared it would not use during that September meeting.

Oversight Steps for Coal Ash Removed

In the proposal released to the public in October, electric utilities wouldn’t have to apply with the state for a permit to build a landfill or pond for coal ash. Instead, the state determined the utilities would have a “permit-by-rule” and could begin constructing coal ash units without prior permitting or review by state regulators.

Right now, utilities building coal ash units need a permit from the Kentucky Division of Waste Management. The process sometimes takes years and involves professional engineers, geologists and environmental technicians. Often permits are also needed from the Kentucky Division of Water.

Under the new proposal, those wouldn’t be necessary.

The state’s approach has been modified somewhat in the final version to a “registered permit-by-rule.” This means utilities will have to register before they begin construction of landfills or ponds, but there will still not be a rigorous permitting process.

“It’s the Wild West, basically,” FitzGerald said. “You get to characterize [the project] on your own, if you do at all, you get to manage it at the location you decide, you get to control the design, the construction, the operation, the closure, the post-closure. And the only time the state is going to become involved is after you screw up. If they find out about it.”

FitzGerald said skipping a rigorous permit review process — where the utility and regulators work together to design the project — could pose myriad problems.

If groundwater monitors aren’t put in the correct locations, they might not detect water pollution. Sensitive ecological or historical sites — like Wentworth Cave on Louisville Gas and Electric’s Trimble County property — could be buried under coal ash forever.

Or, in the most extreme cases, an engineering error could lead to structural flaws in a project and result in a catastrophic coal ash spill.

Cabinet spokesman Mura wrote in an email that the state’s end product is an attempt to comply with the federal rules.

“It was the Obama EPA, after a lengthy regulation development process, that promulgated an industry self-implementing program with no permitting program and with the public/state involvement process done via posting of information on industry website(s),” Mura said.

The EPA’s rules were self-implementing but intended to be incorporated into a state’s existing framework. More recently, Congress approved the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which directs states to work the new federal standards into existing permitting programs.

Legal Challenges Possible

It’s not illegal for regulators to consult with industry representatives before a draft regulation is released for public comment.

Instead, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet routinely seeks input from so-called stakeholders early in the process. But usually that input includes people on different sides of the issue — not just industry representatives but also people from environmental groups, landowners and others with a stake in how the regulations play out,

FitzGerald said that kind of approach — where all sides are engaged early on in the process — ensures that when the regulations are released for public comment, multiple perspectives have been taken into account.

“It is far preferable and I think much more productive and you get a much more responsible work product when you have input from all of the stakeholders,” he said. “And yet in this case, the input came solely from the regulated industry. And the result was a serial weakening of a responsible approach into one that I think is the most irresponsible approach I have seen in my 44 years of working on these issues on behalf of the public.”

Before the rule is finalized, it will need approval from two legislative committees. FitzGerald said if it wins approval, he might consider seeking judicial review.

CONTINUE READING AND TO AUDIO!

(WV) If SB9 Passes, it will be illegal to take this picture…


 

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URGENT: The WV Senate has proposed a bill that makes it ILLEGAL to use a UAV (drone) to take aerial photos and videos of coal mines and gas infrastructure.

HELP STOP THIS CENSORSHIP. Senate Bill 9 is up for a vote as soon as TOMORROW (Wednesday). Please call and/or email the WV Senate NOW and tell them to “Amend the “Drone Bill”, Protect our Right to Know!

***copy and paste the senate email addresses at the end of this post***

Here’s an example comment you can use as is, or adapt:

Senator,

I’m writing today in regards to Senate Bill 9.

§29-2B-5(a) would prohibit UAV operators from photographing or recording any so-called “designated industrial facility”
The prohibition on the taking of aerial photographs and/or videos of “designated industrial facilities” such as coal mines, is extremely restrictive to UAV pilots, has no bearing on the personal privacy rights this bill is meant to address, and is unnecessarily restrictive of personal constitutional liberties.

The ability of the public to use available and appropriate technology to photograph and gather information about the industrial facilities near our homes and communities in order to better protect our personal property and public lands, and ensure the safety of our families and property is critically important.

I urge you to REJECT SB9 unless the proposed bill is AMENDED to remove the unnecessary and burdensome prohibition on “conduct[ing] surveillance of, gather[ing] evidence and information about, or photographically or electronically record[ing]” a designated industrial facility.”

Sincerely,
________________________

Senate email addresses (copy and paste into your email)

mike.azinger@wvsenate.gov, bob.beach@wvsenate.gov, craig.blair@wvsenate.gov, donna.boley@wvsenate.gov, greg.boso@wvsenate.gov, Mitch.Carmichael@wvsenate.gov, charles.clements@wvsenate.gov, sue.cline@wvsenate.gov, douglas.facemire@wvsenate.gov, ryan.ferns@wvsenate.gov, ed.gaunch@wvsenate.gov, mike.hall@wvsenate.gov, glenn.jeffries@wvsenate.gov, robert.karnes@wvsenate.gov, kenny.mann@wvsenate.gov, mike.maroney@wvsenate.gov, Mark.Maynard@wvsenate.gov, ronald.miller@wvsenate.gov, jeff.mullins@wvsenate.gov, richard.ojeda@wvsenate.gov, corey.palumbo@wvsenate.gov, robert.plymale@wvsenate.gov, roman.prezioso@wvsenate.gov, mike.romano@wvsenate.gov, patricia.rucker@wvsenate.gov, randy.smith@wvsenate.gov, ron.stollings@wvsenate.gov, chandler.swope@wvsenate.gov, dave.sypolt@wvsenate.gov, tom.takubo@wvsenate.gov, charles.trump@wvsenate.gov, john.unger@wvsenate.gov, ryan.weld@wvsenate.gov, mike.woelfel@wvsenate.gov

If you prefer calling, Senate phone numbers are listed here: http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Senate1/roster.cfm

You can read the full bill here: http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm…

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It was the world’s largest company coal town. As it turns 100, it fights to stay alive.


 

Lynch resident Mike O’Bradovich talks about the 100th birthday of the historic Harlan County coal town. Bill Estep bestep@herald-leader.com

By Bill Estep

bestep@herald-leader.com

LYNCH

The valley along Looney Creek in Harlan County was a wooded wilderness in 1917 when U.S. Steel, hungry for coal to make steel during World War I, bought 19,000 acres and set about creating the largest company-owned coal town in the world.

The company built an entire town from scratch — hundreds of houses, stores, schools, a hotel, a hospital, a baseball field, a fire station, water and power plants and industrial buildings, including a machine shop and the highest-capacity coal tipple anywhere.

Despite the buzz of work and grand intentions, some thought the town would be a flash in the pan.

The L&N Railroad refused to extend tracks to Lynch from Benham, a coal town about a mile away, because officials felt the town would die after the war when demand for steel went down, according to one history by a U.S. Steel official.

The company built its own tracks, and Lynch survived. The town at the foot of Kentucky’s highest peak, Black Mountain, turns 100 this year.

In that century, Lynch has mirrored the history of Eastern Kentucky as coal jobs swung up and down and families moved out to find work during hard times.

More than half the coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky have disappeared since a precipitous slide started in 2012. At the end of 2016, there were fewer miners on the job in all of Eastern Kentucky than there were at the U.S. Steel mines at Lynch at their peak.

The town’s population has declined to less than 800 from a peak of 10,000, and a third of the houses are vacant, according to U.S. Census figures.

Now, like the rest of the region, Lynch is looking for a new way forward. Residents are trying to promote tourism and small businesses to create jobs, and a study about the possibility of merging with two nearby towns is underway.

The challenges from an anemic economy and a declining tax base are steep, but many in Lynch have a fierce pride in the historic town and are determined to breathe new life into it.

A committee of volunteers is working to schedule events each month to mark the anniversary. On Jan. 1, local churches rang their bells for 100 seconds, and in February, residents put up red ribbons around town. The big event will be in September, with plans for a car show, vendors, family games and performances by several bands.

Residents also have set up a Facebook page where they are posting historic photos and trivia about the town’s past.

The hope is that the centennial will be a springboard for efforts to keep Lynch from withering away.

“The city was built by coal but it can be maintained by something else,” said Rev. Ronnie Hampton, a retired mine inspector who was the town’s first black mayor. “As long as we’ve got breath, we won’t give up.”

Coal companies built hundreds of towns in Southern Appalachia in the early 1900s. Many were thrown together with cookie-cutter houses, poor sanitation and few amenities.

A photo from July 1919 shows construction of mining and other facilities at Lynch, in Harlan County. The historic coal town turns 100 this year. Photo provided

Lynch, however, was considered a model town, with better-built houses of varying styles; health care better than that available to most people in the region; recreation opportunities that included lighted tennis courts, the baseball field, a bowling alley and dances at the hotel ballroom; paved streets; a sewage system; and a company commissary that was reputed to be the best department store in Eastern Kentucky, according to historians.

Italian immigrants used sandstone quarried from the nearby hills to build impressive public buildings.

“None of them rivaled Lynch,” James B. Goode, a retired community college professor who grew up in the neighboring coal town of Benham and has studied the history of Lynch, said of other coal towns.

The thought was that keeping miners content would enhance production and keep down problems.

‘A lot of fun here’

Lynch resident Irene Florek, who is 100, arrived in town with her family when she was a few months old. Her father had moved from a U.S. Steel coal town in West Virginia to work at the new Lynch mines.

Florek lived near the baseball field and remembers frequent activities including games and parades. One local history recounts that the company would close off the street to the hotel when it snowed so kids could go sledding.

“It was a lot of fun here at that time,” Florek said.

The company history recounts milestones from Lynch’s first 40 years, including a meningitis epidemic that hit the area in early 1936. U.S. Steel banned church services and public gatherings to try to limit the spread, and set up a temporary hospital.

Six of the 100 Lynch residents who got sick died, but the death rate was 80 percent or more in nearby communities, according to the company history, which attributed the relatively few deaths in town to the good medical care from company doctors.

In the Depression, people relied on gardens to help get by and the Red Cross gave out flour and other commodities, the history said.

Two miners ride a machine out of one of U.S. Steel’s mines at Lynch in the 1920s. Photo provided

Lynch was a classic melting pot of white people from the region, black people from the South and immigrants of more than 30 nationalities. In 1921, nearly 60 percent of the outgoing mail was to Europe, according to one history.

U.S. Steel recruited black workers from Alabama and other Southern states who were looking for better work than sharecropping, including some recruited from older mines in the Birmingham area.

The company also had recruiters at Ellis Island who used ship manifests to identify European immigrants with mining experience that they could hire, Goode said.

The first load of coal left Lynch in November 1917. By June of 1920, the Lynch mines employed 2,300 men and the population of the town had already reached 5,350, according to a company history.

“It was hustle and bustle here,” said Mike O’Bradovich, a first-generation American whose father came to Lynch from what became Yugoslavia and whose mother was from Germany.

O’Bradovich followed his father into the mines, working from 1974 to 2002.

The sense of pride many in Lynch felt was rooted in immigrants making their way in a new country, O’Bradovich said.

“The pride started when these people were coming over, becoming Americans,” he said.

Generations of black residents have maintained ties to Lynch through the Eastern Kentucky Social Club, which has chapters around the country and sponsors a Labor Day reunion each year, and through a homecoming to Lynch each Memorial Day.

When a former city clerk was charged in 2009 with stealing $137,000 from the city, leaving it strapped, the city council appointed Hampton to steer the city through the crisis.

Hampton sent letters to Eastern Kentucky Social Club members and former residents seeking help, which brought in thousands in donations.

Lynch was segregated until the 1960s. Black and white employees worked together in the mines, but black miners could not move up to supervisory positions until winning a lawsuit in the 1970s, and schools and entertainment were segregated.

There was racial violence directed at black residents in the Appalachian coalfields, especially in the early days, but there was a relatively high degree of harmony between the races at a personal level, historian Ron Eller wrote in his 1982 book “Miners, Millhands and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the American South 1880-1930.”

Whites and blacks in the mines had to rely on each other for their safety, and there were not major differences in pay or living conditions for miners of different races, Eller said.

When the schools integrated in the mid-1960s, U.S. Steel “made it seamless,” said Dwain Morrow, whose father, William Morrow, retired after working 40 years for the company.

‘Virtual reign of terror’

Labor relations were another matter.

Harlan County had some of the most widely reported labor clashes in the country between the world wars. Coal operators used control over the county’s economy and politicians to beat back organizing efforts, evicting union members from company houses, blacklisting them from getting jobs and paying the salaries of sheriff’s deputies who intimidated miners.

Lynch was not immune from the violence associated with those struggles that cemented the nickname “Bloody Harlan.”

There were shootings in Lynch, including one fight at the bathhouse in which two men died, Goode said.

“They didn’t hesitate to resort to violence,” he said of the union organizers and the coal companies.

U.S. Steel and other coal companies exerted authoritarian control over employees and the economic, political and social life in the county, John W. Hevener said in his 1978 account of the labor battles of the 1930s, “Which Side Are You On?”

When the United Mine Workers of America tried in 1935 to sign up members at U.S. Coal and Coke, the U.S. Steel division that operated Lynch, the company laid in a supply of tear gas and extra ammunition, barred organizers and followed union members and destroyed their literature, Hevener wrote.

A state commission later said that a “virtual reign of terror” existed in the county, financed by coal operators in collusion with public officials, and that miners had been evicted, beaten and mistreated.

Goode said U.S. Steel eventually accepted the UMW at Lynch in the late 1930s, deciding that the cost wouldn’t be onerous.

Pay and benefits for miners improved under the union, said William Morrow, 94, who lied about his age to go to work for U.S. Steel at 16.

“It made it better,” Morrow said.

By the late 1950s, mechanization had eliminated many miners’ jobs and railroads and factories switched to other fuel sources, reducing demand for coal.

Coal production hit a 50-year-low in Harlan County in 1960, and the county’s population dropped by nearly half between 1950 and 1970 as people left to find work, according to Census figures.

U.S. Steel and other companies, including International Harvester at neighboring Benham, decided it was too costly to maintain company-owned towns. They tore down many houses, sold others to residents, turned over schools to county districts and gave offices and other buildings to the towns, keeping only their mining operations.

U.S. Steel eventually ended its involvement in Lynch after more than six decades, selling its mines to Arch Coal in 1984.

These days, the city is living month to month financially and operates in the red at times, said Mayor John Adams.

“Getting by — that would be optimistic,” Adams said.

Arch stopped mining around town in the late 1980s, cutting a key source of revenue for the city from selling water to the mines.

Adams said the city needs more employees but can’t afford to hire. When both of its water-plant operators quit in January, the mayor pressed his sons into service to keep the plant going.

Untapped potential

But residents say Lynch also has assets to develop its tourism economy, including the beauty of the mountains, a fascinating history and its coal-camp houses and buildings.

Some of the original buildings in town are still in use, such as the hospital and a building that was a bank and post office, which now holds City Hall.

Kitty Dougoud, administrator of the Kentucky Main Street Program at the Kentucky Heritage Council, said she was not aware of a more intact coal town.

“The potential is there,” Dougoud said.

Neighboring Benham is home to the Kentucky Coal Museum in the renovated coal-company commissary and other historic buildings, including the School House Inn, which was a high school for decades beginning in the 1920s but was converted to a hotel.

Cumberland, Benham and Lynch have been designated as trail towns. They are working to develop hiking and horse trails, and Lynch has started work on a campground.

The city received a grant to renovate the old coal-camp fire station, which now houses Fire House Gifts and Crafts, and a Christian service organization called Meridzo Center Ministries financed the renovation of a building that housed a popular restaurant in the 1920s across from the portal of a mine in the center of town. The Lamp House Coffee shop is in the building now.

There has been interest for years in restoring more of the town’s old stone buildings, but not enough money to match the interest.

The town did receive financing to create a unique attraction at the Portal 31 exhibition mine. Visitors tour a restored section of an underground mine where workers produced more than 100 million tons of coal from 1917 to the early 1960s.

Recordings and animatronic displays tell the story of mining and the town over decades, covering technology, safety concerns, union organizing, and the rise and fall of Lynch.

‘Here to help people’

Residents say Meridzo also is a key resource for the town.

In addition to renovating the building for the coffee shop, the ministry operates a convenience store, a gym, a veterinary clinic, retreat centers and a stable in Harlan and Letcher counties.

Meridzo sees its mission as helping people with practical needs, including jobs, and in the process share the Gospel of Christ, said Lonnie Riley, who founded the ministry with his wife, Belinda, in 1999.

“We’re here to help people,” Riley said.

Meridzo is working to recruit a chiropractor, and has started a facility to grow shiitake mushrooms in sections of hardwood logs in the old bathhouse where miners cleaned up before going home.

There also is an effort underway to develop a customer-service center to provide jobs locally.

Betsy Shirey, who is developing the project, said her idea is a center where employees would field telephone calls and emails for other companies, and could provide other services, such as bookkeeping and marketing.

Shirey works for Humana, but after visiting Lynch on mission trips coordinated by Meridzo, she felt a spiritual calling to try to bring jobs to the area.

She can do her job from home, so she bought a house in Lynch and moved from Louisville.

Shirey said the lack of jobs in the area has helped create an attitude of entrenched hopelessness for many people.

“We’ve got to build up some infrastructure of meaningful work for people,” Shirey said.

Merger ahead?

Some think merging services for Lynch, Benham and Cumberland — or even merging local governments — would put all three on better footing.

The three lie end to end over a space of a few miles and have been known as the Tri-Cities for decades, but grew up as distinct places, with their own schools and competing sports teams, and have always maintained separate city services.

With all three stretched thin, however, their councils agreed to a merger study proposed by the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce, which said in its application for a grant that with declining populations and tax bases, the three towns “have struggled mightily in their efforts to maintain basic services to their citizens.”

The study will focus on how the towns could form one government, how services could be combined, potential savings and how layoffs would be handled if needed.

I really fear for their existence unless they are willing to come together and work as one.

W. Bruce Ayers, former president of Southeast Community and Technical College

W. Bruce Ayers, former president of Southeast Community and Technical College in Cumberland and head of the chamber, said many members believe merger is needed.

A merger would reduce costs, increase efficiency and give the unified city a better shot at government grants, Ayers said.

“I really fear for their existence unless they are willing to come together and work as one,” Ayers said.

It will probably be next year before the study is done and the towns have to decide on merging.

Even if they do, Lynch won’t lose its identity in its second century, said Mary Jo O’Bradovich, who with her husband Mike is involved in the centennial committee.

“After 100 years, I don’t think anyone is going to say, I am from the Tri-Cities,’” she said. “Lynch will be Lynch.”

Bill Estep: 606-678-4655, @billestep1

Justice Department will again use private prisons


By Matt Zapotosky February 23

The Justice Department will once again use private prisons to house federal inmates, reversing an Obama-era directive to stop using the facilities, which officials had then deemed less safe and less effective than those run by the government.

In a one-paragraph memo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the previous directive to the Bureau of Prisons to either reduce or decline to renew private-prison contracts as they came due.

“The memorandum changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system,” Sessions wrote. “Therefore, I direct the Bureau to return to its previous approach.”

The directive marks a significant policy shift from the previous administration, although the practical impact might be somewhat muted.

Most inmates are housed in state prisons, rather than federal ones. Even when the Justice Department announced it would no longer use private facilities, the action only affected 13 prisons, housing a little more than 22,000 inmates. The original directive also did not apply to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Marshals Service detainees, who are technically in the federal system but not under the purview of the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Private-prison operators already stood to benefit substantially from President Trump’s aggressive measures to detain and deport illegal immigrants.

[The Justice Department closed this troubled private prison. Immigration authorities are reopening it.]

As of Thursday afternoon, the Bureau of Prisons had 12 privately run facilities, holding 21,366 inmates. They are run by three private-prison operators: Management and Training Corporation, the GEO Group and CoreCivic, which used to be known as Corrections Corporation of America.

Private prisons have faced significant criticism in recent years from civil liberties advocates and others. Sally Yates, who served as deputy attorney general in the Obama administration, did not mince words in August when she ordered the Department of Justice — of which the Bureau of Prisons is a part — to end the use of private prisons entirely by phasing them out over time.

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.

The inspector general’s report concluded, among other things, that privately operated facilities incurred more safety and security incidents than those run by the federal Bureau of Prisons. The private facilities, for example, had higher rates of assaults — both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff — and had eight times as many contraband cellphones confiscated each year on average, according to the report.

Private-prison operators vigorously disputed that report’s conclusions, and they hailed Thursday’s memo from Sessions as vindication.

[Private-prison industry fights Justice Department directive to end the use of contract facilities]

Jonathan Burns, a CoreCivic spokesman, said the announcement “validates our position that the department’s previous direction was not reflective of the high quality services we have provided to the federal government for decades.” Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the GEO Group, said the company believed the Justice Department’s earlier decision was “based on a misrepresentation,” and it welcomed the reinstatement of “long-standing practice and policy at the Federal level.”

Issa Arnita, a spokesman for Management and Training Corp., said the new directive empowers the Bureau of Prisons “to manage its facilities in a way that provides the greatest value to taxpayers and the inmates in their care.”

The private-prison industry is a formidable one, generating billions of dollars of revenue each year and giving significant amounts to politicians. The GEO Group and CoreCivic, for example, donated $250,000 to support Trump’s inaugural festivities, spokesmen for the companies said. Management and Training Corp. did not, a spokesman said. Separately, the GEO Group, gave $275,00 to the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now, according to FEC filings. One $100,000 donation came a day after the Justice Department announced it would no longer use the facilities.

The Justice Department had believed dwindling prison populations would make it possible for the Bureau of Prisons to end its use of contract facilities, and a Justice Department spokesman said in October that still appeared to be the case. Other agencies, though, did not see it that way, even during the Obama administration.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for example, inked a contract in October to use a New Mexico facility that the Justice Department had moved Bureau of Prisons inmates out of. The facility has a history of questionable deaths and substandard medical care.

A government panel recommended in December that the Department of Homeland Security continue with its use of private immigrant-detention facilities — saying they were the only realistic way to handle the volatile flows at the border. But the panel’s report was the subject of a contentious debate, and more than two-thirds of a broader government group objected to its conclusion.

David C. Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said that putting people into for-profit prisons was “a recipe for abuse and neglect,” and the new Justice Department directive seemed to foreshadow the worrisome possibility that “the United States may be headed for a new federal prison boom.” If Sessions believes the Bureau of Prisons could not meet its needs without using for-profit facilities, he said, “you’ve got to wonder what they’ve got up their sleeve.”

Matea Gold contributed to this report.

CONTINUE READING…

BIG PHARMACY AT WORK HERE IN KENTUCKY, IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED!


marijuana

Chad Wilson

 VIEW VIDEO THRU THIS LINK!

BIG PHARMACY AT WORK HERE IN KENTUCKY.
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED..IF YOU CARE ABOUT THIS STATE…THIS PLANT..AND IT’S FARMERS.

Legislators’ Hot Line: 1-800-372-7181
Legislative alert:
HB 333 – Fentanyl Bill:

In this bill they have buried something that will undo a lot of the good work Jamie Comer did when he was Ag Commissioner.

This bill deals with Fentanyl, not Industrial Hemp or CBD oil.

Right now, Big Pharma, more specifically GW Pharmaceuticals is working on a synthetic CBD Oil for prescription to be allowed by the FDA.

In Section 25 (d) of this bill it tinkers with what Marijuana is and is not, and what Marijuana will not be in Kentucky if this passes is CBD Oil Prescription Approved by the FDA.

By doing this any natural CBD oil from Industrial Hemp plants that is not prescribed will then be by default Marijuana, and thus a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance.

What needs to happen is Section 25(d) needs to be stricken as not germane, or amended to included CBD oil from Industrial Hemp.

TBK Opposes, if these changes are not made.

ACTION: Call Rep. Moser and your Representative and see if we can get section 25 (d) changed. – Reported favorably out of committee, posted for passage, floor amendment filed that does not address our concerns.

SOURCE LINK

http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/17RS/HB333.htm

Send this to your Kentucky Legislators NOW!!!!


 
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Thomas Tony Vance

12 mins ·

Send this to your Kentucky Legislators NOW!!!!

In 1969, the 1937 marijuana tax stamp act was declared unconstitutional.

In 1970 they began creating the 1970 Controlled substances Act and without any scientific input made marijuana schedule one, right up there with heroin. A schedule that cannot be questioned or changed without the approval of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Very few drugs are in this category.

Now we know it was all a political scam to use the drug war to go after and suppress Nixon’s enemies. We know this for sure because the Nixon Administration said so.

The cover story in the April 2016 edition of Harper’s Magazine was, “Legalize it all” written by Dan Baum. Mister Baum was asking Nixon aide John Ehrlichman questions about the politics of drug prohibition and as he tells it, Ehrlichman asked,

“You want to know what this was really all about?” He went on to say, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did”.

The new AG, Senator Sessions is saying he is going to step up the war on pot users. For what reason?

They claim States Rights when deciding whether or not to protect transgender kids’ right to go to the bathroom of their choice, but not when deciding a State Marijuana policy!

Please ease the fears of the tens of thousands of marijuana users in our State and send a message to the new administration that as a State we will not be bullied by the Feds.

PS: Scientifically, there is a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths in the first year after passage of a medical marijuana bill that grows to 33% by year 6 after legalization. that means 250 of our citizens will die in the coming year if a bill is not passed this year.

So Git Busy!

You may never know but passage might save the life of one of your family members!

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.t.vance?hc_ref=NEWSFEED&fref=nf

“You can’t put the genie back into the bottle”


 

 

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(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Patrick McGreevyPatrick McGreevyContact Reporter

Warned of a possible federal crackdown on marijuana, California elected officials and cannabis industry leaders said Friday they were preparing for a potential showdown in the courts and Congress to protect the legalization measure approved by state voters in November.

The flashpoint that set off a scramble in California was a news conference Thursday at which White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the administration had no plans to continue the Obama administration’s permissive approach in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” he said, adding that the administration would continue to allow states to regulate the sale of marijuana for medical use.

The latest development could force California officials and marijuana industry leaders into an unusual alliance against the federal government, with billions of dollars in profits for businesses and taxes for state coffers at stake.

The state agency responsible for drafting regulations said Friday it was going ahead with its plans to start issuing licenses to growers and sellers in January.

“Until we see any sort of formal plan from the federal government, it’s full speed ahead for us,” said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.

In Congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) plans to introduce legislation that could blunt Spicer’s threat by preventing the Department of Justice from enforcing federal laws against the recreational use of marijuana in states that have legalized it, a spokesman said Friday.

And industry officials warn that any federal crackdown in California and other states will result in many growers and sellers continuing to operate, but on the black market.

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra says he is ready to safeguard the rights approved by 57% of voters in Proposition 64, which allows California adults to possess, transport and buy up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use.

“I took an oath to enforce the laws that California has passed,” Becerra said in a statement Thursday after Spicer’s comments. “If there is action from the federal government on this subject, I will respond in an appropriate way to protect the interests of California.”

State lawmakers also say California should do what it can to preserve Proposition 64.

“We will support and honor the laws that California voters have democratically enacted,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), an author of legislation creating the licensing system for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Becerra would likely be joined in any defense of the state’s marijuana policy by attorneys general in other parts of the country. Recreational use has also been legalized in Washington state, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, home to a combined 68 million Americans.

Washington Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, who has worked with Becerra on opposing President Trump’s travel ban, said he and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last week asked for a meeting with U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to discuss how the recreational marijuana use system is working in their state.

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading supporter of Proposition 64, took a similar approach, sending a letter Friday to Trump urging him not to carry through with threats to launch a federal enforcement effort.

“I urge you and your administration to work in partnership with California and the other … states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use in a way that will let us enforce our state laws that protect the public and our children, while targeting the bad actors,” the Democrat wrote.

If the Justice Department starts arresting licensed marijuana sellers, the multibillion-dollar industry would join forces with the states that issue permits to challenge the action in court, said Amy Margolis, an attorney whose law firm has more than 200 clients in the marijuana industry, including businesses in California.

“This industry is so mature and it’s so far along that I have no doubt that if the Department of Justice started true enforcement actions against cannabis businesses, that they would go to court,” Margolis said. “I see joint actions between the states and the industry hoping to prevent those type of actions.”

Margolis would argue that it is a states’ rights issue.

“The argument would be that this is a situation where the states have the right to regulate and tax an industry the way they want,” she said, adding that states are gaining tax revenue to pay for government programs.

Although federal law does not outline a medicinal use for marijuana, Trump administration officials have made public statements indicating they recognize that such a benefit exists, which could help the industry in a potential court case, Margolis said.

However, the states may find their hands tied legally if they try to keep federal agents from raiding and shutting down marijuana growing and sales operations, according to Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law.

“I imagine that California will mount a legal challenge to any crackdown on recreational marijuana,” Winkler said. “Yet there is not much California can do. Federal law is supreme over conflicting state law. Federal agents are entitled to enforce federal law anywhere in the country, including California.”

He said there are limits to federal power, but the courts have held that the federal government does have the authority to enforce federal drug laws.

Aaron Herzberg, an attorney for the industry, agreed that the state would face a tough fight. He cited the 2005 case Gonzales vs. Raich, in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress may criminalize the production and use of homegrown marijuana even if states approve its use for medical purposes.

“Let’s face it: If the federal government wants to shut down recreational marijuana, they could quite easily accomplish it using federal law enforcement and taxation tools,” Herzberg said.

Others say one basis for legal action would be an argument that enforcing laws against marijuana would damage states that have put regulations in place and are depending on hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to pay for government programs.

States are too far down the path of regulating, licensing and taxing those who are making big investments in the sanctioned marijuana industry to pull the rug out now, said Richard Miadich, an attorney who co-wrote Proposition 64.

“Given the strict regulatory structure set forth in Proposition 64, that medical and adult-use regulations are being developed in concert, and that public opinion is squarely on the side of states’ rights on this issue, I think it is impractical for the federal government to reverse course now,” he said. “Not to mention the potential for great harm to individual states.”

Supporters of Proposition 64 say there is also a potential political solution.

In recent years, Rohrabacher and former Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) won congressional approval of a rider to the federal budget that prohibited federal funds from being used to prosecute medical marijuana businesses that are in compliance with state laws.

Rohrabacher plans to introduce legislation that would expand the protection to businesses that comply with state laws allowing the growing and sale of marijuana for recreational use, according to spokesman Ken Grubbs.

The congressman is planning the legislation “because recreational use is an issue of individual freedom and should be dealt with legally according to the principle of federalism, a bedrock conservative belief,” Grubbs said.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) is also “reviewing options to counteract whatever the Trump administration’s plans” are for state marijuana laws, said senior advisor Jack d’Annibale.

Another option, though a long shot, would be for Congress to attempt to change the federal Controlled Substances Act to decriminalize the use of marijuana nationally.

Herzberg said reinstituting federal raids would be “a major setback for the industry.”

But the state could still go ahead with a licensing system for medical marijuana growing and sales in spite of a federal crackdown on recreational use, according to Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Assn.

“A vast majority of California growers and cannabis business owners would choose to participate only in the medical marketplace if given the option, and some would choose to avoid licensure entirely if they were unable to distinguish themselves from adult-use businesses,” Allen said.

Because Spicer did not provide details on what an enforcement effort might look like, many in the industry hope it will focus on the illegal exporting of marijuana to other states, leaving alone state-licensed firms that grow and sell pot.

“The biggest crackdown we may see is on the increase of cannabis being illegally exported out of recreational states,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn.

State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said any change in federal enforcement policy on states that have legalized recreational use would be misguided.

“You can’t put the genie back into the bottle — marijuana regulation and enforcement can’t and shouldn’t go backwards,” he said.

CONTINUE READING…

Kentucky house passes bill to create Bible literacy courses in schools


(Pixabay)

FRANKFORT, KY (AP)

The Kentucky House has passed legislation aimed at creating elective Bible literacy courses in public schools.

The bill would require the state Board of Education to establish policies for local school boards that choose to offer elective social studies courses on the Hebrew texts and New Testament.

The measure passed the House on an 80-14 vote Thursday and now goes to the Senate.

Rep. DJ Johnson of Owensboro, the bill’s sponsor, said the Bible is the “single-most impactful literary document” in western civilization.

The bill’s opponents said it intrudes on the principles separating church and state by sanctioning one faith.

Under the bill, Bible literacy would be an optional course for public school students, with curriculum set by Kentucky’s Board of Education.

The legislation is House Bill 128.

CONTINUE READING…

http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/17RS/HB128.htm

Trump to order reversal of Obama water regulation rule: official


U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S., February 24, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By David Shepardson | WASHINGTON

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign a measure as early as Tuesday aimed at rescinding a major Obama administration water regulation and direct an end to the government’s defense of the rule, a Trump official briefed on the plan said late Friday.

Trump is expected to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which expands the number of waterways that are federally protected under the Clean Water Act.

The rule was finalized by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 2015, and was blocked by a federal appeals court pending further court challenges.

The rule has faced intense opposition from Republicans in Congress, farmers and energy companies.

Critics contend the rule vastly expands the federal government’s authority and could apply to ditches and small isolated bodies of water. The EPA under President Barack Obama said the rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries “because science shows that they impact downstream waters.”

A White House spokeswoman did not comment on Friday.

Trump is also expected to issue other environmental executive orders as early as next week, including a reversal of the Obama administration’s clean power plant rule and instructing the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management to lift a ban on new coal mining leases on federal lands.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt told The Wall Street Journal last week that he planned to quickly withdraw the clean power plant and WOTUS rules. “There’s a very simple reason why this needs to happen: Because the courts have seriously called into question the legality of those rules,” Pruitt told the newspaper.

Withdrawing the water and power plant rules will take time to meet regulatory requirements and will likely face court challenges from some Democratic state attorneys general and environmental groups.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to resolve a dispute over what court should handle challenges of the water regulation.

Also In Politics

The justices said they would hear an appeal by the National Association of Manufacturers of a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court’s ruling that gave itself jurisdiction to review challenges to the Clean Water Act regulation. The industry group wants challenges to the rule to be heard in district courts.

Dozens of agricultural groups, states and municipalities had sued to block the rule. The challengers contend the agencies’ change improperly expanded federal regulatory power.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

CONTINUE READING…

Morgellons Disease Scientifically Proven to Occur in Dogs


Charles E. Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation Announces Collaborative Study Linking Skin Condition to Canine Lyme Disease

The finding of skin lesions similar to Morgellons disease, first in cattle and now in dogs, confirms that the skin disease is not a delusion, as some have maintained. Marianne Middelveen

AUSTIN, TX (PRWEB) OCTOBER XX, 2016 (PRWEB) (PRWEB) December 07, 2016

Man’s best friend may help solve another mystery. A new study entitled “Canine Filamentous Dermatitis Associated with Borrelia Infection” reveals that a condition similar to human Morgellons disease can occur in dogs. The study was published in the prestigious Journal of Veterinary Science & Medical Diagnosis.

Morgellons disease is an unusual skin condition associated with Lyme disease in humans. It is characterized by skin lesions containing unusual multicolored fibers and symptoms such as fatigue, joint and muscle pain and neurological problems that are typical of Lyme disease. Similar skin lesions have previously been reported in bovine digital dermatitis, an infectious disease of cattle.

The dog study was partially funded by the Charles E. Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation (CEHMDF) and was conducted by an international team of researchers, including Calgary microbiologist Marianne Middelveen, San Francisco Internist Dr. Raphael Stricker, molecular biologists Dr. Eva Sapi and Dr. Jennie Burke, and Calgary veterinarians Dr. Gheorghe Rotaru and Dr. Jody McMurray.

The dogs in the study presented with unusual fiber-containing skin lesions that lacked other explanations and that failed to respond to non-antibiotic treatments. “Generally-speaking, the fibers we have seen are teal and pink,” explains Dr. Rotaru.“Dogs are hairy, so fibers can be hard to see. Fortunately the fibers fluoresce under UV light, so we have used that diagnostic tool to identify dogs with the skin condition.”

Analysis performed by five different laboratories detected the corkscrew-shaped agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, in canine skin tissue by special staining and DNA analysis. Culture studies showed that the Lyme bacteria in skin were alive. Further analysis of the canine skin fibers showed that they were made of the same proteins as human Morgellons disease fibers.

Most of the owners of the study dogs were healthy and were not familiar with Morgellons disease or Lyme disease; however, two of the owners also had Morgellons disease. “In those cases, we do not have evidence of contact transmission from human to animal or animal to human,” says Dr. Stricker, “it may be that both owner and dog were exposed to the same disease vector.”

“The finding of skin lesions similar to Morgellons disease, first in cattle and now in dogs, confirms that the skin disease is not a delusion, as some have maintained,” said Ms. Middelveen. “We need to learn much more about this mysterious skin condition.”

About the Charles E. Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation:
The Charles E. Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation based in Austin, TX, is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization committed to advocacy and philanthropy in the battle against Morgellons. Director, Cindy Casey-Holman, RN, leads the foundation, named for her husband, Charles E. Holman, a pioneer in the fight against MD. The CEHMDF is the recognized authority and primary funding source for Morgellons Disease medical-scientific research. There are neither grants, nor any other public or private funding to support research for Morgellons. Donations are tax deductible in the US. To learn more about Morgellons disease go to http://www.MorgellonsDisease.org

SOURCE LINK

RELATED:

Has KY been infected with “Morgellons Disease”, or is there another type parasite that is being seen in the area?