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Opponents of proposed prison in Letcher County find fault with final environmental impact study

Dr. Artie Ann Bates of Concerned Letcher Countians says the federal Bureau of Prisons final environmental impact study on the proposed Letcher County prison is lacking in several respects.
Chris Begley
Dr. Artie Ann Bates of Concerned Letcher Countians says the federal Bureau of Prisons final environmental impact study on the proposed Letcher County prison is lacking in several respects.

The final environmental impact study by the federal Bureau of Prisons on the proposed Letcher County prison complex is out and opponents say it gives the go-ahead for the $500 million project. Dr. Artie Ann Bates is with Concerned Letcher Countians, a group formed two years ago to oppose the medium-security prison that would be built in Roxana on reclaimed coal mine property.

“Our group works with a larger coalition, and we consulted several experts who wrote in-depth comments, and some of those are not even acknowledged in this document.”

Bates said the 400-page report, which was issued Wednesday afternoon, also appears to have ignored experts on environmental problems, including the prison’s effect on endangered species. She added it does cite experiences at southeastern Kentucky’s three other federal prisons that suggest likely hiring problems.

“Staffing this prison, they admit, will be difficult, and they give an example of that. And when prisons are understaffed, they're much more dangerous for those who are incarcerated and the people who work in them.”

The Letcher prison has been in the works for at least 18 years and has been a pet project of Congressman Hal Rogers since he was House Appropriations chair. With the final EIS out, a 30-day public comment period runs through August 12, after which a record of decision will be released.

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John McGary is a Lexington native and Navy veteran with three decades of radio, television and newspaper experience.
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