Wednesday, May 25, 2011
EKB Capsule News...Kentucky...5-26-'11
- Brushy Road - KY 881 - is open for one-lane traffic through the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. This will help the local residents travel for the holiday weekend, said Joe Stanley of Highway District 12. Hopefully drilling will begin next Tuesday to install the other three rows of steel. Barring any unforeseen issues, work will be completed within two weeks. District 12 maintenance specialists have cleared a rock slide which closed KY 80 between Elkhorn City and Breaks Interstate Park. Debris began falling Tuesday evening just before dark. The roadway was completely cleared.
- The Sierra Club filed a suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in London accusing ICG Hazard of violating the federal Clean Water Act and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 at the Thunder Ridge surface mine in Leslie County. The Sierra Club is seeking an order requiring ICG Hazard to install selenium treatment facilities at the mine and pay $37,500 in fines for each day the law was violated. ICG Hazard's permit for the Thunder Ridge mine allows it to discharge some pollutants to Lower Bad Creek and several tributaries, including Greasy Creek and Roundhole Branch of Greasy Creek, but the lawsuit says ICG Hazard has discharged selenium into the water at levels that could harm aquatic life and exceeded Kentucky's standard for what is allowed.
- A Franklin County Circuit Court judge has ruled that Attorney General Jack Conway failed to meet the burden of proof needed to warrant an injunction against Marathon Petroleum Co., the Ohio-based firm that Conway suspects of price gouging in the wake of recent storms. Judge Thomas Wingate denied Conway's request for an injunction on Wednesday. The ruling came after last week's hearing in which petroleum experts offered contradictory testimony about whether Marathon illegally raised gas prices in April after heavy rains caused widespread flooding. Conway had sought a court order requiring Marathon to reduce prices to levels charged shortly before the storms. Since Conway took the company to court, gasoline prices have fallen sharply.
- Friday will be a furlough day for most Kentucky state workers, the sixth one and last of the fiscal year. The General Assembly authorized the furloughs, which are expected to save taxpayers about $24 million and prevent laying off more than 400 state employees. Most executive branch employees are included in the furlough, but to keep necessary services available, some state offices will remain open or partially open Friday, and some exemptions have been approved for workers who provide critical services, such as police and medical personnel. State workers are also off on Monday for Memorial Day. The fiscal year ends June 30th. No furlough days are currently scheduled for next fiscal year.
- Governor Steve Beshear has signed an executive order extending the state's price-gouging protections an additional 30 days. Beshear announced the move on Wednesday, a day before the initial executive order implemented April 25th is set to expire. The executive order allows the attorney general's office to investigate complaints of price gouging on fuel, building supplies, hotel stays and other goods and services. The governor said many Kentuckians still are waiting for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA has declared that residents in 11 counties are eligible for individual assistance to repair private property, and additional counties are under consideration. More than 70 counties have declared states of emergency. Beshear said his executive order will protect potential victims from errant contractors and suppliers.
- Wednesday, a Lexington jury recommended Adrian Benton serve 27 years in prison after he was found guilty of complicity to commit manslaughter and robbery, among other charges for the 2006 shooting death of UK student John Mattingly III. Benton was also cited as a persistent felony offender. Raymond Wright pleaded guilty earlier this month to avoid a possible death penalty. Mattingly was the son of Marion County Judge-Executive John Mattingly Jr. and Janet Mattingly. Formal sentencing will be July 8th.
- Obama administration officials announced Wednesday in Washington that Kentucky and eight other states may compete for $200 million in federal educational funds in a third round of the Race to the Top program. In addition to Kentucky, the eligible states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and South Carolina. They could receive grants ranging from $10 million to $50 million. Kentucky lost out in the first two rounds of Race to the Top mainly because the state has no provision for charter schools. Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said Wednesday state officials have not decided whether to apply, but, If charters remain a key requirement in the third round, it might not be beneficial for Kentucky to apply. Kentucky still needs money to implement Senate Bill 1, the education-reform program that kicks in for the 2011-12 school year.
- Kentucky is reporting a decline in April's jobless rates in 97 counties compared with a year ago. The Kentucky Office of Employment and Training released new county-level unemployment rates on Wednesday. Despite the improvement, numerous counties still had double-digit joblessness. Jackson County had the highest unemployment in the state at 18.1 percent, followed by Menifee and Magoffin counties, both of which had rates above 17 percent. Clay County's rate exceeded 15 percent. Webster County had the lowest April jobless rate at 7 percent. That was followed by Fayette and Oldham counties at 7.6 percent each, and Ohio and Woodford counties at 7.7 percent each.
- Kentucky Utilities says it will ask for a $1.1 billion environmental surcharge increase beginning next year, which would raise customers' bills by 1.5 percent in 2012 up to a maximum of 12.2 percent in 2016. The surcharges are to pay for federally mandated improvements at the Ghent Generating Station in Carroll County and E.W. Brown Generating Station in Mercer County. KU said Wednesday it plans to ask the state Public Service Commission to approve the increases. The initial monthly hike would amount to $1.13 during 2012 for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month, with the maximum monthly increase $9.46 in 2016 for the same customer.
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