Steven Chancellor, the president and CEO of Black Beauty Coal Inc.
Indiana's top coal producer on select group advising
EVANSVILLE, IN -- The president of Indiana's largest coal producer is one of the prolific GOP donors on a team helping guide President-elect George W. Bush's transition, according to a report.
Steven Chancellor, the president and CEO of Black Beauty Coal Inc., gave nearly a quarter-million dollars to Republican candidates and groups during the 2000 election, according to The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group that studies campaign finance.
The group's report was based on a database it assembled of preliminary Federal Election Commission reports.
That report ranks Chancellor seventh among the 261 Bush-Cheney Transition Advisory Team members who contributed to federal candidates and national party committees and earned "face time" with Bush.
"I think it is clear that these are people who will have Bush's ear throughout his administration," said Scott Weiss, communications director for the research group.
The list of names on the transition advisory team is a who's who of former members of Congress and Republican administrations, lobbyists and prominent business executives.
Members of the group gave at least $5.3 million to the Republican Party and various GOP candidates during the 2000 election campaign.
Scott McClellan, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney transition, said the advisory team now numbers about 600 people.
According to the nonpartisan group's report, Chancellor gave $244,750 to Republican organizations and candidates during the 2000 election cycle. That does not include $20,000 donated by "Mrs. Steven Chancellor" to the Republican National Committee.
Chancellor gave $5,000 to the Democrats.
As a golfing buddy of former Vice President Dan Quayle and retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Chancellor has long been a heavy hitter in GOP political fund-raising circles.
He raised $1.4 million this year for Republicans with an August fund-raiser at his multimillion-dollar Evansville home. Guests reportedly paid $5,000 to $10,000 to attend that cocktail reception, which was attended by Quayle and former President George Bush.
Most of Chancellor's total contribution during the 2000 election cycle -- about $210,000 -- was to the Republican National Committee. Such donations are often called "soft money" because they circumvent campaign contribution limits to individual candidates.
There is no limit on the amount of soft money that donors can give to parties for use in political advertising.
"The lesson to be learned is the more you give by way of campaign contributions, the better chance you have of being at the table with the president," Weiss said.
McClellan, of the Bush transition, said the financial support of contributors is appreciated, but donors do not make policy. He said the advisory teams advise Bush on implementing the ideas he campaigned on.
"The president-elect sets the agenda and he sets that agenda based on what is right for America," McClellan said. "These advisory teams are made up of people who share that commitment."
New York Times 14apr00
FARMERSBURG, IN. -- It is bad enough, people around here say, that their beloved Indiana countryside is being gouged by strip mines in a quest for coal. What is worse, they fear, is what the coal company wants to put back in the holes.
"They're going to contaminate our wells," said Ethel Zink, a woman in her 60's, as she sat with a dozen neighbors on a back porch within eyesight of what is now Indiana's largest coal mine, and what could also become a major dumping ground.
What worries people in Farmersburg is something called coal ash, which is what is left over by the coal-burning power plants that still generate more than half of the electricity used in the United States. More than 100 million tons of the ash are produced each year, and until now, it has been treated as essentially benign, regulated only by the states and disposed of in landfills, storage ponds and even surface mines under uneven laws that are often less strict than those that govern household trash.
But almost overnight, the question of coal ash and how to handle it has become the subject of a hot environmental debate.
In the last several weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency has signaled its concern that the ash may be more toxic than was previously understood. Within the Clinton administration, a vigorous discussion is under way about what to do, and the White House could decide by the end of this month whether to end a 20-year-old exemption that protected the ash from strict federal solid waste regulations.
The electric utilities industry, which says there is no need for new restrictions, has been lobbying hard in Washington in hope of heading off any change. But in places like Farmersburg, a town of 6,000 in rural southwest Indiana, people say that what they have begun to hear about coal ash is causing them to turn for help to unexpected places.
"I'm not for the E.P.A.," said John Waterman, a contractor who doubles as a state senator and favors baseball hats and bib overalls, "and I don't like federal involvement. But if that's the only avenue to stop them from putting the ash in these mines, it's better than nothing."
As recently as March 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a report to Congress that it had "tentatively concluded" that coal ash did not generally present a risk to health or the environment, and that it did not warrant federal regulation. That finding is being cited by the utilities industry and its allies in Congress to suggest that no change in the current system is needed.
But a deadline set by a federal court under which the environmental agency was supposed to have made a final determination by March 10 seems to have prompted both a reassessment and a change in course. Based in part on what they say is information that has only recently come to their attention, agency officials now say there is documented evidence of more than 20 cases in which the dumping of coal ash has caused health problems or damaged the environment.
In nearly all of those cases, one or more of the toxic substances contained in the coal ash, which include arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury, was found to have spread in hazardous levels into lakes, ponds, rivers or underground water.
The agency is now reviewing 50 additional cases in which such damage is suspected. And officials say a review of procedures in place around the country has added to their concerns, showing that at least half of an estimated 750 disposal sites are not protected by basic safeguards, like the use of liners to prevent toxic substances from spreading and the monitoring of groundwater to detect any contamination.
"We have not concluded just yet whether or not to put these wastes under federal jurisdiction," Timothy Fields, the agency's assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response, said in an interview. "We have concluded that something has to be done to be sure that this waste is going to be properly managed."
Any decision to tighten the regulations would require White House approval, and there have been signs of differences within the administration over whether the environmental benefits would justify the burdens the stricter regulations would impose on the industry. An industry group, the Edison Electric Institute, has estimated that stricter controls could cost utilities between $3 billion and $5 billion a year, while an early estimate by the Environmental Protection Agency put the figure at less than $1 billion.
Around the country, representatives of nearly 300 citizens groups signed a letter in late March urging the agency to impose tighter laws, but a number of state officials and lawmakers have lined up on the opposite side of the question, saying that no further action is needed.
The March 10 deadline has been extended to April 25, after the agency asked for more time to consult with other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy.
The issue is complicated in part by the fact that as much as 30 percent of the 115 million tons of coal ash produced in the United States finds a beneficial use, with the materials sold off as ingredients in cement, wallboard and fill. E.P.A. officials say they want to encourage such recycling, but utility executives say any tightening of federal regulations would undermine that process.
The special status for coal ash dates back to 1980, when Congress passed legislation sought by the energy industry that excluded most oil and coal combustion wastes from the federal rules that give the government broad authority to regulate solid waste.
That exemption has allowed utilities much more latitude in disposing of coal ash than they are permitted, for example, under tight federal standards limiting what power plants can emit into the air.
Critics say that amounts to shutting one door while leaving another open, because the toxic substances required to be captured inside smokestacks become part of the ash dumped into the ground in ways that can threaten water supplies.
Industry officials say that the coal-ash regulations now in place are sufficient to protect both the environment and human health.
"To add another layer of regulation would be like ringing a doorbell with a cannon," said Bill Tyndall, vice president for environmental services at Cinergy Corporation, one of the country's largest utility companies, which operates several coal-burning power plants in Indiana. "There's ample authority out there by both E.P.A. and the states to deal with these sites if there's concern."
Still, the regulations now in place do vary from state to state, meaning that wide differences exist between how coal ash is handled at what are at least 750 sites around the country where its dumping is permitted.
In Kentucky, for example, groundwater quality must be monitored wherever coal ash is dumped, but in Texas, no such monitoring is required. In Indiana, landfills built after 1988 to handle coal ash must be lined to prevent seepage, but there is no such requirement in South Carolina, even for new sites.
And while most states allow coal ash to be dumped only by permit, Texas has no such requirement as long as the waste is disposed of on power-company-owned land within 50 miles of the plant where it is burned.
Indiana has become a focus of the debate over coal ash, in part because of the sheer volume of the waste that is produced in the state every year.
With coal-burning plants accounting for 98 percent of Indiana's electricity, between 6 million and 7 million tons of coal ash is produced in the state every year, more than in any other state except Texas.
An Indiana group, the Hoosier Environmental Council, has been a national leader in calling for federal action to tighten what the group's director, Jeff Stant, calls "a hodgepodge of totally inconsistent levels of protection over what is one of our largest streams of major industrial waste."
In Indiana, most of the ash that is not reused ends up in landfills and artificial ponds, usually on property owned by the power companies. But under state rules that have been in place only for the last several years, about 5 percent of the ash is now being dumped in strip mines, in what utility companies say is often the cheapest method of disposal.
The procedure, which is also permitted in some other states, is advocated by the state's Department of Natural Resources as a safe way of dumping the ash without having to build more landfills.
In Farmersburg, the state has granted the Black Beauty Mining Company permission to dispose of as much as 13 million tons of ash in deep pits without protective liners. But so far, the company has held off on its plan, in the hope of finding a way to address the community's concerns. If dumping does begin, residents say, the main concern is what will happen to the ground water on which they depend.
"The thing is, we need to make sure that no one will dump irresponsibly," said John Gurnitz, 44, who raises hogs, rabbits and cattle on 64 acres that adjoin the 8,000-acre Farmersburg Mine, where bulldozing and blasting began in 1996. "We need to see this stuff handled as toxic waste."
Owned by Black Beauty Corp.
Click on an image to zoom
|This 3 foot band of coal is the reason to destroy the landscape|
|Waste from surface mining|
not a pretty picture.
Water Monitoring Well...
Federal Register Document
[Federal Register: July 30, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 146)] [Notices] [Page 40727-40728] From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:fr30jy98-81]
Applicant: Steven E. Chancellor, Evansville, IN, PRT-972.
The applicant requests a permit to import the sport-hunted trophy of one male bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus dorcas) culled from a captive herd maintained under the management program of the Republic of South Africa, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.
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