Environmental groups say Kentucky mining co. that falsified water reports is doing it again

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LEXINGTON, Kentucky — An eastern Kentucky coal company that was caught falsifying water quality reports several years ago is at it again, according to a court filing by environmental groups.

The groups sent a court notice Monday that they intend to sue Frasure Creek Mining and affiliate Trinity Coal Corp. The notification is required for lawsuits alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The four groups said Frasure Creek stopped submitting false reports after activists first notified state regulators of the problem in 2010 but resumed the false reporting last year.

"We were completely shocked to find they were doing the same thing again," said Mary Cromer, an attorney with Appalachian Citizens' Law Center in Whitesburg, who is helping represent the environmental groups.

The notice also accuses state mining regulators of failing to properly police the company.

A spokesman for the state Energy and Environment Cabinet says regulators saw violations on water-monitoring reports from Frasure Creek this year and were processing enforcement actions.

Efforts to reach Frasure Creek by phone were unsuccessful.

The groups that filed notice of intent to sue were Appalachian Voices, Waterkeeper Alliance, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Kentucky Riverkeeper. Also suing is Pat Banks of Richmond, who is with Kentucky Riverkeeper. The groups were required under federal law to give notice of their intent to sue 60 days before filing a lawsuit.

The groups allege that Frasure Creek copied identical information from some reports onto later reports in dozens of instances in 2013 and the first half of 2014.

In the initial case in 2010, the groups said their review of discharge monitoring reports from 13 mountaintop mines operated by Frasure Creek found numerous instances of copying and pasting data from report to report. The state negotiated a $310,000 settlement with Frasure Creek, but the environmental groups sued to intervene, arguing the proposed penalty wasn't sufficient to deter the company from committing more violations.

The settlement has not been finalized.

The state cabinet also said it required Frasure Creek to set up a plan to fix violations in 2013. In monitoring compliance, the Division of Enforcement did a review in January and identified violations on monitoring reports, according to the cabinet.

The statement said action on those violations was pending, cabinet spokesman Dick Brown said.

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