HCC 1MADISONVILLE, Ky. (1/17/2013) – During a ceremony held at the State Office Building on Hospital Dr. in Madisonville this morning, a local coal company was honored for their reclamation efforts at a former surface-mining site in Hopkins Co. State legislators and officials from the Department for Natural Resources’ (DNR) Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement (DMRE) gathered at the DMRE’s Madisonville Regional Office and presented Hopkins County Coal, LLC (HCC) with the Annual Commissioner’s Excellence in Mine Reclamation Award.

Five such accolades are awarded each year, as the commissioner recognizes outstanding examples of reclamation in each of the five regional DMRE offices throughout the state. On-hand to deliver remarks today were DNR commissioner Steve Hohmann, Democratic Sen. Jerry Rhoades, and Republican Rep. Ben Waide.

HCC’s careful planning in conjunction with regulatory officials and their adherence to a detailed, site-specific plan resulted in successful post-mining land restoration, which included hay land/pasture, fish and wildlife habitat, permanent open water impoundments, stream restoration (Little Flat Creek), and several seasonal shallow water depressions.

Hohmann welcomed the members of the General Assembly during opening remarks and thanked them for “helping us award and recognize some outstanding reclamation. Often times, our agency is only recognized or known for its regulatory influence out in the state, and that often brings about some of the more negative things that we do with writing violations and adversarial positions … It’s always good for me to come out and point out that there are positive things to mining—a lot more positive than negative—and this is an example of that. Most coal companies complete their reclamation in a good manner and get their sites back to program standards.”

He lauded HCC for taking extra time and effort, going above and beyond in the reclamation project located on Little Flat Creek under permit number 854-0216. The 318-acre site is situated directly east of the proposed site for the Hopkins Co. Regional Sports Complex, across Interstate 69. Reclamation has been finalized on the majority of the site, earning most of the project a final phase 3 bond-release.

HCC 3Surface Manager, Kiah Winstead, and Engineer, Lee Harris, represented HCC and were presented with the first award, a poster featuring pictures and descriptions of work that took place on completed portions of the land. The pictures show lush wetlands and well-established trees and grassy areas. “It’s truly an exemplary showcase for that type of reclamation,” Hahmann continued. “It blends-in well with the surrounding countryside, and I would venture to say that after a few years … you won’t even know that it was ever surface-mined.”

The DNR Plaque for Outstanding Reclamation was then presented to Harris and Winstead, who accepted the award and were then joined by DMRE inspection personnel, Greg Logsdon, Chief Inspector; Robert Yonts, Madisonville Regional Administrator; and Danny Eizenga, Inspector/Bond-Release. While posing for pictures, Hahmann went on to say that progress is only made when cooperation exists between government regulators and coal companies.

“The coal company does all the heavy lifting; they do all the work; they put out the money to get it done; but it’s also in cooperation with our department that this is accomplished. Without some of the input and advice from our regional office people here in Madisonville, this site may not have turned out to be as good as it is.”

HCC 4Rhoads then addressed those assembled: “[This event] illustrates another positive aspect of the importance of coal mining to our region. Not only does it help us with low-cost energy—dependable energy—but it’s a boost to our economy with the jobs and the spin-off that it creates, and on top of that, it’s a boost to our environment.”

Rhoads said that the quality and appearance of some reclaimed areas is greatly enhanced compared to pre-mining conditions. “This is a win-win situation for everybody when we have, not only the economic benefits that come with coal-mining, but the environmental benefits that come with responsible reclamation.”

He congratulated HCC and echoed Hahmann’s remarks on the importance of cooperation. “This is a model of how it should be,” Rhoads said. “Rather than adversarial citations and fines … to me, it looks like you’ve worked as a partnership with a common goal … it’s just nice to drive down the road and see something like this because, if you’ve been around here a long time, we all know what the scars can look like when we see the old surface-mining that occurred years ago, before we had our regulations.”

HCC 5During Waide’s remarks, which came at the conclusion of the event, he said, “I think this is a great honor for Hopkins County Coal. This is just a reflection of what Lee and Kiah and everybody at Hopkins County Coal does every day. This isn’t something different or special—this is something they do every day, and I am so proud of the work that you guys do. The fact that we are taking this land and turning it into fish and wildlife habitat is thrilling.”

Pushing his weight around and drawing laughter from the guys, Waide joked that he would welcome the chance to hunt or fish the land, hinting to Winstead that he would need a guide to show him the best spots.

Regaining decorum, Waide continued, “It’s a special privilege to me to honor this private business that’s doing its job in a responsible manner … Myself, Speaker Greg Stumbo, and Senator Rhoads would like to bring a Legislative Citation that further honors Hopkins County Coal.”  He and Rhoads presented HCC with the citation and then beckoned the DMRE personnel to join for a group photo.

Following the event, Winstead told SurfKY News that, on behalf of HCC, he and Harris were grateful to be recognized by the DMRE and the legislators. He wished to recognize all of the HCC workers who toiled at the site. “They did a great job,” he said, adding, “We had the backing from our company, Alliance Coal, and we worked hand-in-hand with the state—they’re good guys to work with, and it means a lot to us. We appreciate all of this.”

Click on the Flickr slideshow below to view images from the reclamation project.

Casey Piscitelli
SurfKY News

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