Kentucky Department for Natural Resources

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Department for Natural Resources

FY 2014 Annual Report

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Cover Photo of young bull elk silhouetted by the rising sun on a foggy ridge top on the Little Elk (Starfire Mine) in Breathitt County. Photo by DNR staff.

OUR MISSION: To improve the quality of life for all Kentuckians by protecting our land, air, and water resources; utilizing our natural resources in an environmentally conscientious manner; and creating efficient environmentally responsible ways of managing, conserving and sustaining our resources for future generations.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary 2


Division Of Conservation 4

Division of Forestry 9

Division of Mine Permits 23

Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement 26

Division of Abandoned Mine Lands 32

Abandoned Mine Land Slide 34

Division of Mine Safety 37

Division of Technical and Administrative Support 40

DNR Program Development and Special Projects 45

Coal Education Development and Resource (CEDAR) Tour in Breathitt County 48

Establishment of Oil and Gas Workgroup - Nationwide the American oil and gas industry has experienced substantial technological advances in exploration and production in recent years. In many cases advances in drilling and well completion technology have exceeded the ability of the state regulatory authorities, including Kentucky, to adequately provide oversight and accommodate these changes. In Kentucky, the primary authority to regulate the oil and gas industry falls to the Department for Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas, under Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 353, and the Department for Environmental Protection, Divisions of Water and Waste Management, under KRS Chapter 224. Many provisions of these statutes were promulgated decades ago and have become antiquated, failing to address certain aspects of oil and gas development activities, especially those technological advancements that could not be known at the time the statutes were enacted. This scenario has occurred in adjacent oil and gas producing states and has led to legislative changes in those states to address the technological advancements in the oil and gas community. 48

Acknowledgements 51

Commonwealth of Kentucky

2014 Annual Report

Executive Summary

The Department for Natural Resources is one of three departments within the Energy and Environment Cabinet with 669 full time employees as of June 30, 2014. The department is comprised of the following distinct organizational units: The Office of the Commissioner, the Office of Reclamation Guaranty Fund, the Divisions of Abandoned Mine Lands, Conservation, Forestry, Mine Permits, Mine Reclamation and Enforcement, Mine Safety, Oil and Gas, and Technical and Administrative Support. The Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund Board, Soil and Water Conservation Commission, Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and the Kentucky Mining Board are also attached to the department and administrative support is provided through the department.

While the department has faced many challenges dealing with revenue shortfalls, there have been significant accomplishments made by the department over the past fiscal year. Some of the most notable and significant achievements have been:

  • The Kentucky Reclamation Guaranty Fund (KRGF) was established. The KRGF is an interest bearing account established for the purpose of providing funding for the reclamation of forfeited coal mining operations where the permit specific performance bonds are insufficient for the Commonwealth to complete reclamation to program standards.

  • The Division of Forestry reopened a newly constructed Morgan County Nursery after the previous facility was demolished in the March 2012 tornado outbreak.

  • The Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement met a mandated inspection frequency on over 99 percent of mine sites it is responsible for inspecting. This is a significant improvement over frequency that fell short of 90 percent in the four previous fiscal years.

  • The Oil and Gas Workgroup was established to review statutes and regulations pertaining to the extraction of oil and gas, and provide suggestions regarding necessary updates to address current industry practices.

  • Injuries and fatalities on Kentucky mines remain low and the Division of Mine Safety continues to develop improved training programs to help prevent injuries and fatalities on mining operations.

  • The Division of Conservation was recognized by the state auditor for its implementation of the “District in Good Standing” program, which requires districts to meet all reporting statutes in order to qualify for maximum funding from the Soil and Water Conservation Commission.

  • The Division of Mine Permits continues to implement new regulatory requirements for determining reclamation bond amounts for coal mining permits and for long term treatment of substandard water discharges from coal mining operations.

  • Governor Steve Beshear and Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters initiated the 20/20 Vision on Reforestation. This reforestation project has a goal of planting of 20 million tree seedlings over the next 20 years on lands deemed suitable for this purpose. The tree planting events will use Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts as volunteer tree planters whenever possible.

  • The collection of water quality data continues from 133 locations or “Trend Stations” in the eastern and western Kentucky coal fields. This data is evaluated as one component of the Cumulative Hydrologic Impact Assessment (CHIA), which is part of the SMCRA permit review process. The purpose of CHIA is to assess the impacts of mining on water quality and quantity in Kentucky coal fields. Future permit reviews will consider this continuously updated dataset when establishing permit conditions and arriving at permit decisions.

  • The department continues to promote reforestation efforts throughout Kentucky with numerous reforestation projects initiated during this past fiscal year. The department partnered with several outside entities to expand and enhance reforestation on mined lands.

Recently prepared and vegetated reforestation areas on Premier Elkhorn Coal Company’s Esco Mine in Pike County (permit #898-0682). Photo by J Hamon.
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