Category: Environment

A Kentucky Legislative Session Update

A Kentucky Legislative Session Update

By: Brandon McReynolds, Ph.D, Friends of Limestone Founder

Hey Friends!

We are now a little over halfway through the 2018 Kentucky Regular Legislative Session (the legislature only has 59 legislative days this year), which provides an opportunity to check-in on the bills connected to Friends of Limestone’s mission.

Over the past week, our team reviewed all the proposed legislation from this session. As of publication, over 150 bills have been filed in the Senate and close to 400 in the House. These bills cover a variety of policy areas connected to limestone and the industries that exist in Kentucky because of limestone. Below we listed several of the bills that stand out to us.

We have provided a brief description of each piece of legislation along with why the legislation is of importance to Friends of Limestone. We also recommend checking out the Legislative Research Commission’s website where you can see the bills and resolutions your representatives have sponsored! Also, be on the lookout for a separate blog post about Kentucky’s pension problem, and how it affects us all as Friends of Limestone.

House Bills:

HB 26- Natural resource severance and processing tax

Currently: in House to Appropriations and Revenue

  • Amends state law to define the “processing” of limestone to include the act of loading and unloading
  • Amends state law to allow for a tax credit for identical severance or processing tax paid in another state or political subdivision.

FOL Perspective: the mining and processing of limestone as a natural resource is one use of Kentucky’s large limestone deposit. Legislation focused on the continued mining of limestone needs to consider the environmental, social, and economic impacts of mining each time legislation such as this is proposed.

HB 159- Increase sales tax on alcohol

Currently: in House to Licensing, Occupations, and Admin Regs

  • Amends state law to increase the whole sales tax rate for beer, wine, and distilled spirits to 14 percent
  • Forbids local governments from imposing a regulatory fee on the sale of alcoholic beverages
  • Amends state law to establish a $100 annual transporters license fee
  • Amends state law to require that every distiller, rectifier, winery, and nonresident wholesaler make its brands available to any wholesaler and not grant the distributing rights of any particular brand to only one wholesaler exclusively
  • Amends state law to require that alcohol wholesalers make deliveries to retailers on a timely basis and no later than one week after the order date
  • Amends state law to require that alcohol distributors make deliveries to retailers on a timely basis and no later than one week after the order date
  • Amends state law to permit a quota retail package licensee or a nonquota malt beverage package licensee to transport alcoholic beverages between stores of common ownership if the licensee derives not less than 90 percent of his or her cash receipts from the sale of alcohol and pays the annual license fee

FOL Perspective: The sell of alcohol is highly regulated and taxed in Kentucky. As Kaitlyn pointed out in her recent blog, taxes incurred throughout the process make up a substantial cost that is passed onto consumers. This law adds further taxes and regulation.

HB 267- All wet counties through a local option election to approve license fee

Currently: in House to Licensing, Occupations, and Admin Regs

  • Amends state law to allow all wet cities and counties containing wet cities through a local option election to impose a regulatory license fee on the sale of alcoholic beverages

HB 41, 42, and 229– All deal with gambling

FOL’s mission does not directly connect to the issue of legalized casino gambling. However, due to the on-going discussion around casino gambling and Kentucky’s horse industry we wanted to make people aware of these pieces of legislation.


Senate Bills

SB 22- Sports wagering

Currently: In Senate to Appropriations and Revenue

  • Requires Kentucky Horseracing Commission to institute a sports wagering system
  • Vest control of sports wagering with the commission
  • Establishes a 20% tax on the total amount wagered at sports wagering facilities

FOL Perspective: The equine industry plays a substantial role in the Kentucky economy.  Legislators and voters need to understand the economic and social impacts of expanded sports gambling along with how legislation such as this will support the long-term growth of Kentuck’s equine industry.

SB 56- Kentucky Horse Racing Commission

Currently: Has passed in the Senate, and is in the House to Licensing, Occupations, and Admin Regs

  • Amends state law to make ex officio members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission nonvoting members.

SB 110- Alcohol license quotas

Currently: In Senate, passed out of committee, seven-floor amendments were added, waiting for second reading

  • Codify the quota system for alcoholic beverages for wet counties and cities
  • Creates new process for verifying quota numbers
  • Create a process to allow for a city or county to petition for a quota increase

Various amendments have been added and range from eliminating the quota system to shifting how the system is managed.

FOL Perspective: As legislators debate the pros and cons of Kentucky’s quota system, FOL believes that they should work to give agency and power to counties and cities across the state.

SB 129- Reorganize energy and environmental cabinet

Currently: In Senate to Natural Resources & Energy

  • Amends over 25 state statutes regarding the Energy and Environmental Cabinet
  • Changes names of various portions of the Energy and Environmental Cabinet
  • Amends state law regarding responsibility for who can take legal action regarding various programs

FOL Perspective: Every issue before the legislature is an environmental issue, a reorganization of  Energy and Environmental Cabinet needs to ensure the environmental justice is a part of the policy process both inside and outside of the cabinet.

SB111- Breeder’s Cup exemption

Currently: In Senate to Appropriations and Revenue

  • Amends state law to make permanent the Breeder’s Cup exemption relating to wagering
Environmental Justice: The Story of Martin County, Kentucky

Environmental Justice: The Story of Martin County, Kentucky

Hey, everyone!

How has everyone’s 2018 been so far? Our environment continues to be a pressing importance in my life and hopefully you are making it one in yours!

That being said, let’s keep talking about Environmental Justice in Appalachia!

Last month, I mentioned that this blog would be dedicated to a specific case example. One that is personal to me and has been making some news recently, is Martin County, Kentucky.

The story of Martin County is close to me because I have spent the past year studying the environmental injustices of this county for my dissertation research. What have I been doing and what’s going on with Martin County? First let’s get a baseline of the area.

Martin County is:

  • A Central Appalachian county of Kentucky that borders West Virginia.
  • Contains around 12,000 individuals.
  • Predominantly white (94 percent of the population).
  • The 115th poorest county in Kentucky.
    • The medium household income is around $25,000
    • 35 percent fall below the poverty level.
  • Where the War on Poverty was born.
  • A coal mining community.

Since coal mining is predominant in Martin County, their risk to environmental stressors is increased. Unfortunately this risk increased too far and in the fall of 2000 a disaster struck the county. One of the coal slurry impoundments broke, releasing over 300 million gallons of slurry in two hollows of Martin County: Coldwater and Wolf Creek.

What is “coal slurry?” It is the stuff that comes off coal after it’s washed. “Washed”? Why is coal being washed? Is it dirty? Well…yes! Before it is burned for energy purposes, it must be cleaned to rid various impurities, like soil and rock. The byproduct that comes off during this process is called “slurry” and it is housed in large dams call impoundments, like the one over Martin County.

Appalachian writer, Harry Caudill once said impoundments are “like a pool of gravy in a mound of mashed potato”. I really love that analogy. I feel like it gives a vivid picture of what these things are. It also gives you a good idea of what it looked like seeping into the community. The black gravy mixture contaminated local creeks, water sources, soil and killed aquatic life. For such a small community, tucked in the Appalachian Mountains, you might not think this was a big deal, but it was actually the worst environmental disaster in the southeast, exceeding the amount released from the Exxon Valdeez Oil Spill!

It was my goal to study the recovery of this disaster for my dissertation, so I started interviewing the people impacted. I soon learned that there is another environmental issue plaguing the county.  In a nutshell, their infrastructure is poor.

I found that:

  • Water lines were breaking, allowing contaminants to enter into the water source.
  • There is an average of 60 percent water loss across the county.
  • Their water smells, is discolored, and is reported to burn their skin.
  • No one drinks the water! Their source comes from bottled water.
  • People are organizing and trying to get a new water source for their community.
  • People are concerned over their health and community future.

You will probably hear more about Martin County and their struggles in the coming weeks and months as it is gaining more media attention day after day! I am not going into the details of why individuals believe their water system is inadequate; you will have to read my dissertation for that!

Regardless of the reason, this county experiences environmental stressors. It is truly unjust. The story of Martin County is a reminder that environmental stressors are not equally shared across populations!

Until next time,


Environmental Justice 356: Appalachia

Environmental Justice 356: Appalachia

Hello, again!

I hope everyone’s holiday season is going well and everyone is staying warm! As the year comes to end, I want to continue our discussion about Environmental Justice. If you missed last month’s blog, I wrote a very basic introduction to what Environmental Justice is and why it is a national problem; click here to read it, it is important for our “December talk”!

I plan for, at least a couple months, these blogs to build on one another. So, the next installment in Environmental Justice will be focused on Appalachia; think of it as “Environmental Justice 356”. Some of you not from the eastern side of the country may be asking yourself “App-a-what?” whereas others are wondering if I am pronouncing it as “App-ah-LATCH-ah” or “App-ah-LAY-CHA”.

So, what the heck is Appalachia?

  • A predominantly rural region of the U.S. consisting of 420 counties.
  • Stretches 205,000 square miles
  • Spans 13 states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virgnia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
  • It is broken up into 5 sub-regions: North, North Central, Central, South Central, and Southern.
  • All Kentucky counties are located in the Central sub-region.

So, why am I talking about Appalachia? For one, a part of it is located in the commonwealth. Also, last month, I discussed the role class plays into the location of environmental “bads”; reference the “race vs. class debate”. Appalachia, and particularly Central Appalachia, is extremely poor.

  • Central Appalachia is predominantly white.
  • As of 2017 Central Appalachia has:
    • The lowest mean ($47,152)
    • The lowest median household income ($33,956)
    • The highest percentage of those in poverty.
    • The highest percentage of individuals with less than a high school diploma.
    • The lowest percentage of those with a bachelor’s degree.
    • The highest percentage of those living with a disability.
  • It has the most amount of counties labeled distressed by the federal government; these are counties with the lowest economic stability.
    • There are a total of 49 distressed counties in Central Appalachia
    • 37 of which, are in Kentucky.

Okay, so what does all of this have to do with Environmental Justice? EVERYTHING! It is one of the central reasons environmental “bads” concentrate in Appalachia. You may be asking yourself, “I remember last week he mentioned waste facility sites, is that what he means? Is there an over concentration of those?” Well, I am sure Central Appalachia has their fair share of them, but no. Environmental “bads”, for Appalachia, exist primarily because of poor mining methods from the coal industry. Recall a blog I authored a couple months ago about how Limestone extraction needs to be done properly, the same goes for coal mining. This has existed in the sub-region for roughly 150 years (Do I hear an answer to the “chicken vs. the egg debate”?) Since its entrance into Central Appalachia, it has:

  • Created unsafe living and work conditions for miners and residents
  • Destroyed mountains
  • Caused large scale disasters
  • Polluted the air, water, and soil
  • Increased cancer rates, liver problems, and skin disorders
  • Reduced mortality rates, as well as overall quality of life.
  • Increased economic problems

Okay, okay, I know that was a lot to go over in such a short time! One blog can’t, and no pun intended, do environmental justice in Appalachia “justice”. I wanted to give each and every one of you a short introduction to environmental justice issues happening right within our state. Next month we will discuss a case example of a coal-caused environmental justice issue!

Until next time,


Environmental Justice 101

Environmental Justice 101

Hello, again!

As I’m sure you know, our environment is not always maintained as well as it should be (or if you don’t, welcome to reality). There are many environmental impacts that affect us in our every day lives, which put our health at risk. I’m hoping, since you are taking the time to read this blog, you know that we should, and must, be more conscience of these impacts and make efforts to improve them. However, did you know these risks are unequally shared across race and class? Some of you may be asking yourselves now, “What do you mean, unequally shared?” or “What does race or class have to do with anything”. These are the questions I hope to answer for you. I also hope to give you a better understanding of the injustices that often get looked over and are not always brought to light by the media and/or politicians (which, face it, that’s where most of us get our news whether we like it or not).

Environmental Justice:

  • Things like hazardous plants, pollution, and contamination are disproportionately located in black and poor communities.
  • This spawned an area of research and social movement aimed at addressing these inequities: Environmental Justice.
  • It advocates that all people and communities, regardless of their race or class status, are entitled to a healthy environment, as well as equal protection of environmental laws and regulations.
  • Click here for the 17 guiding principles of environmental justice!
  • There are two main debates with environmental justice: race vs. class and the chicken and the egg.

“Race vs. Class Debate”

  • Debates whether race or class is a better predictor of “environmental bads”.
  • Answering this debate is complicated because race and class connected.
  • Poor racially concentrated communities are the best predictors.
  • This occurs wherever people have the least amount of power, called “the path of least resistance”.
  • Occurs in poor black communities, as well as poor white communities.
  • This rarely occurs in rich white communities.

“The Chicken and The Egg”

  • Debates whether the “environmental bad” or the people came first into a community.
  • This assumes only one form of discrimination: the environmental bad moving in.
  • If people move into a contaminated community, it is discrimination too because those of a lower socioeconomic status are often forced into them.
  • NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) is the act of rich white folks opposing environmental bads.
  • NIMBY acts concentrate these into marginalized communities!

I can’t stress to you enough how difficult it is for me to provide an introduction of environmental justice, alongside the two debates, in such a short blog! There are so many components to environmental justice that warrant their own blogs! In the coming months I plan on discussing many of these with you because it is a highly important topic to discuss, as well as a crucial component to environmentalism. In the mean time, I encourage each and every one of you to think about something in a community that negatively impacts the environment (power plant, factory etc.) around you. Then, ask yourself, where are these located?

Until next time!





Looking to get involved? Environmentalism in Kentucky!

Looking to get involved? Environmentalism in Kentucky!

Hello, again everyone!

As many of you know, one component to Friends of Limestone’s mission is environmental awareness and education. As their environmental blogger, I like discussing environmental issues with you, such as conservation/preservation, environmental impacts of limestone extraction, sustainability, and even, more recently, recreation (have you visited any of those lakes yet?). This week I decided it might be interesting if we talked about other organizations, within Kentucky, that do environmental work. This way, if you are an environmental advocate, like myself, you can become more involved! Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of environmental organizations in Kentucky, so, I have decided to simplify it and include only three. Let’s begin!

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

If you are from and/or live in Kentucky, you more than likely have heard about Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC)! This organization has been an established organization for 35 years in Kentucky. Their work focuses on grassroots building and empowering individuals to engage alongside their work. They currently have over 10,000 members and local chapters across the entire state! KFTC’s work focuses on four categories: coal and water, economic justice, new energy and transition, and voting rights. They advocate that social, environmental, and economic issues are related with one another, meaning we can’t talk about one area without talking about the others. However, let’s only talk about their environmental work for now.

  • They campaign and raise awareness of the impacts of coal mining in Eastern Kentucky.
  • They seek a just transition for Appalachia.
  • Lobbying for environmental policy is their game!
  • They campaign for moving Kentucky away from those nasty fossil fuels.
  • Sustainability initiatives of all types.
  • Join them!

Kentucky Environmental Foundation           

The Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF) was established in 1990. The organization was born out of opposition towards the disposal of chemical weapons right here in the commonwealth. They helped lead a grassroots movement focused on ensuring safe and environmentally responsible disposal methods. This campaign laid the foundations for the organization today! Today, they focus on a wide range of environmental research/education and getting folks together around environmental issues. So, what do they offer you?

  • An annual report detailing their work, as well as other highlights in Ky. Think of it as annual KEF 101.
  • A lot of information! They research and write countless reports on various issues.
  • A blog page discussing countless topics (they even have one discussing the chemicals in your furniture!).
  • A Mailing list so you can stay up to date on their work.
  • Check them out!

Sierra Club

You may be thinking “Wait, is he talking about the Sierra Club, the oldest national environmental organization founded by John Muir on May 28, 1892 that currently has over 2.4 million members? They are based out of Oakland, California!” If you are thinking this then you are correct…you also know a lot about the Sierra Club! I am impressed! Did you know the Sierra Club operates right here in Kentucky, as well? You didn’t?? They have a local chapter in Whitesburg, Ky (The Cumberland Chapter) and many other groups scattered across the state. So what can the Sierra Club do for you?

  • A lot of information! I mean a lot.
  • Membership and action
  • Community
  • Recreation
  • Many programs!
  • Go visit their page!

I know, I know, I didn’t even scratch the surface of environmental organizations in Kentucky. I hope this discussion has sparked your interest to join an organization and/or find some information that is useful for you. Is there an organization I missed that you believe should have been on here? Let me know!

Until next time,


Meet a Friend of Limestone, Dr. Alan Fryar

Meet a Friend of Limestone, Dr. Alan Fryar

It’s hard to be more of a friend to limestone than Dr. Alan Fryar, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Fryar’s specialty is understanding how water moves through karst, a special kind of landscape formed by the dissolution of limestone. He has studied it across the Bluegrass region. One study performed in Woodford County compared a spring under UK’s Animal Research Center with another in downtown Versailles. He has also researched sinkholes and “telling people where to and where not to build from an engineering perspective.”

This extensive understanding of karst makes him one of the Bluegrass’ top experts on the natural foundation on which our Commonwealth stands.

He explained that Kentucky’s limestone gives it a unique geographic difference. “The Bluegrass region is sort of a dome of limestone.” Dr. Fryar noted that this limestone had an immediate effect on how Kentucky grew and evolved.

“It has to do with historical settlements,” he noted. “People settled in areas where limestone was fundamental.” The Falls of the Ohio and the unique properties of central Kentucky’s soil are both thanks to limestone and attracted settlers.

Dr. Fryar’s interest and knowledge about karst and Kentucky’s history with limestone has led to a hobby of speaking to the landscape’s role in bourbon distilling. He’s been interviewed by several journalists and authors about the role of limestone in Kentucky’s unique industries.

He notes that “interesting coincidences” led settlers to the industries that remain the cornerstones of Kentucky’s cultural and economic identity.

“Bourbon is what people started distilling because the ingredients were available,” Fryar notes. The limestone water that came from natural springs across the Bluegrass was a key ingredient. It isn’t a coincidence that Royal Spring, Kentucky is where Elijah Craig began making whiskey in 1789.

It turned out that the high pH of limestone water is ideal for promoting fermentation, and it naturally filters out impurities like iron that alter the taste. This made water from the Bluegrass region the perfect ingredient for the earliest bourbon distillers.

While limestone water is not essential to bourbon production at this point, it has created a myth around the spirit. “I think that’s where the concept of terroir comes in, where it’s not just physical factors, but it’s also what the consumer perceives as the place, the origin of the spirit that gives it value,” he told Louisville Public Radio in 2013.

Even his students have gotten into the act of studying the relationship between geology and distilling. One of his UK graduates now works as an environmental compliance officer for a major name in Kentucky bourbon.

Dr. Fryar is helping the public understand the geological reasons behind bourbon’s rise in Kentucky. That makes him a great Kentuckian and a true Friend of Limestone.

Limestone, Extraction, and the Environment

Limestone, Extraction, and the Environment

Let’s talk about Limestone.  Limestone is a sedimentary rock and the leading stone extracted and processed in the United States.  Out of all stone mining in the U.S., limestone accounts for roughly 42%.  It is extremely functional, as it is primarily used in the construction industry.  However, it has many uses!

You interact with limestone on a daily basis and you may not even know it.

  • It is used to make the paper you just wasted after trying for the 100th time to operate the office copier.
  • The plastic bag you used to carry a pack of gum out of Kroger.
  • The glass jar of outdated pickles in the back of your refrigerator.
  • The paint on your wall…and, if you did the paint job, possibly on your floor too.
  • The carpet in your house that you keep forgetting to vacuum.
  • The overly priced bottle of water you purchased at Speedway.
  • The food in your 4 for 4 at Wendy’s.

Let us not forget the horses and mint juleps we like to watch/drink on Derby Day!

Have you ever wondered how we extract it? Probably not, so here we go.  The majority is mined through a process called surface mining (some extraction is done through underground methods).  Surface mining mines from the top down, not the bottom up.  In respect to limestone, the process is referred to as quarrying.  Quarrying involves the removal of earth and stone piece by piece with heavy machinery and small explosives.   The end result is a large open pit (quarry).  Once completed, the stone goes to a processing plant.

You may be thinking, “oh, yeah, that’s what those giant holes in the earth are called!”.  Have you ever thought about the environmental impacts from “those giant holes in the earth”? Again, probably not.

If not conducted properly quarrying can have negative environmental impacts.  These include:

  • The removal of trees, vegetated areas, soil, and habitat loss required for many species to live.
  • Contamination of local water sources.
  • Acid mine drainage
  • The use of large amounts of water.
  • The creation of wastewater.
  • Air and soil pollution from heavy machinery.

All pose negative health risks for humans, non-animal species, and nature.

In a previous blog I discussed the importance of conservation and preservation.  Another crucial component is sustainability.  Sustainability is a principle that seeks to maintain the balance for both future and present species/generations.  If we are unable to find and maintain this balance, future generations will feel the impacts.  Limestone extraction is not immune.  Alongside practicing conservation and preservation to our limestone reserves, we also need to make certain our extraction methods are sustainable for our present and future generations, as well as the natural environment…and for the 4 for 4 at Wendy’s!