Andy_solar1
RibbonCutting_solar
CatholicActionSolar_web
AVLegislation_web
PollinatorPlan_web

KCC Guardian: Sun is Shining, Despite Lack of Pro-Solar Legislation

It has been an exciting couple of weeks here, starting with the recent unveiling of TWO significant solar projects. The first had its ribbon-cutting a week ago this past Thursday morning in Frankfort. The ribbon-cutting, held by the City of Frankfort and Earth Tools Inc.was for a project at the Juniper Hill Golf Course Pro Shop, where 82 panels were installed to provide 25% of the shop’s power. Former KCC President Andy McDonald was the force behind this project, as described in two articles from the Frankfort State Journal, here and here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second installation, unveiled later that same afternoon, was held at the Catholic Action Center in Lexington. Story here.

The inspiration for the Catholic Action Center project came as a reaction to the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. This is one of the first homeless shelters in the country to be powered by solar, and the first one financed with only private contributions. We wish to thank Synergy Energy for providing a discount on the price of the 100 panels they installed on the center, and was one of the companies who was strongly engaged in our opposition to SB214  last session, along with Solar Energy Solutions and Wilderness Trace Solar during the last legislative session. Catholic Action Center press release on their solar project here. KCC is continuing its campaign to provide more solar-friendly legislation in Kentucky. If you are interested in supporting this work, please contact Lane Boldman at director@kyconservation.org.

 


New Laws, Interim Session

The new laws that were passed during the 2017 legislative session took effect on June 29th of this year (see story at link). We also want to flag the status of the state’s recent weakening of coal ash rules, as described in this story by Erica Peterson, which anticipates a late July implementation. In the meantime, legislators have been convening during the Interim Joint Session, which began during the first week of June and runs through the first week of December.

Highlights of the week: We were pleased with the presentation this week to the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources & Energy from the Jackson Group, a firm located in Madison County. The firm outlined how to address natural stream restoration approaches to erosion of our transportation infrastructure caused by flooding and other hydrological impacts. We found this to be an enlightened presentation that applied good science and stream health as considerations when addressing infrastructure issues.

We were also intrigued this week by the presentation on Autonomous Vehicles to the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation. As vehicles adapt more “smart” technology, this raises a range of questions on statutes, including re-visiting the definition of a car’s “driver,” and issues involving public safety and insurance. Already thirty-three states have considered ninety-six bills involving Autonomous Vehicles. And During the course of this discussion, lawmakers once again raised the issue of gas taxes and the impact that the growing electric vehicle and alternative fuel market may have on revenues. This is an issue that KCC will be watching closely.


More on Electric Vehicles

While we are speaking about electric vehicles, we wish to note that the Energy and Environment Cabinet is accepting proposals regarding the Volkswagen Settlement (link HERE). The Cabinet is currently in the process for developing Kentucky’s mitigation plan. States will be receiving settlement funds that will be designated for NOx reduction through this settlement. KCC and the Louisville-based electric vehicle advocacy group Evolve Kentucky recently met with cabinet officials to learn about recent developments with the settlement and advocate for an “all electric” approach to vehicles that may be purchased through settlement funds. There are also national advocacy groups, such as Plug-In America, that have released reports on the adoption of plug-in vehicles and their advantages. Link to report here. If you are interested in being a part of this dialogue on shaping this settlement for Kentucky, please contact KCC at director@kyconservation.org. You can also contact Evolve Kentucky to learn more about their innovative “Adopt a Charger” program for increasing the availability of electric vehicle charging stations.

To comment directly on the VW plan, you can use the cabinet’s comment form here.


Pollinator Plan

In 2015, the State Nature Preserves Commission’s Biennial report highlighted “Pollinators on the Decline,” which identified how the protection of pollinators would be a priority for the Commission. Now we are pleased to announce the new Pollinator Protection Plan, which was released last month during a “Pollinator Week” kickoff event. Link here. Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles kicked off the week with the unveiling of the pollinator plan, demonstrations on beekeeping, and a display of Kentucky Proud products. KCC has been part of the review team for the Pollinator Protection Plan, and also the soon-to-be-finalized Monarch Protection Plan.

Relating to this, KCC also recently attended one of the “Linking Agriculture for Networking & Development” (LAND) Forums hosted by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA), and Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM). Three sessions were held throughout the state, highlighting local agricultural producers. We took the opportunity to spread the word about the new pollinator plan, but we were also intrigued by the innovative ideas that local producers were demonstrating on how to use natural products in innovative ways, such as the mushroom farmer who described how mushrooms were being used to absorb oils and pavement runoff at Bernheim Arboretum.


Wild & Scenic Film Festival

We are excited to announce our second year of hosting Syrcl’s “Wild and Scenic Film Festival,” a traveling festival of rotating short outdoor recreation films. The event will be held on Thursday, August 17th, so mark your calendar! This year, we are taking the festival to Lexington’s Kentucky Theatre. If you have seen this festival before, note that every showing has a different selection of films chosen by the host organization. This year we have selected nearly a dozen exciting adventure films to appeal to all fans of the outdoors. Tickets will be $20 donation ($15 student) and can be purchased one week in advance at the Kentucky Theatre Box Office. HOWEVER we fully expect the event to be a sellout, and strongly recommend you sign up in advance to reserve your tickets through KCC at this link.

We want to thank our signature festival sponsors: Canoe Kentucky, Wild Birds Unlimited Lexington, West 6th Brewing, J&H Outdoors and Good Foods Co-Op for their support for this year’s festival. We also want to thank in-kind sponsor, the Cumberland Chapter Sierra Club for their assistance in promoting the event.

The evening will once again host a silent auction, held by KCC’s charitable foundation, the Kentucky Conservation Foundation. We wish to thank Michler’s Florist, Weisenberger Mill, Ale-8 and Buffalo Trace Distillery for their generous contributions to the KCF silent auction. If you would like to become a sponsor for the film fest, or contribute to the KCF silent auction, contact us!


Volunteer with KCC!

We have many exciting opportunities for volunteers to contribute to our work! If you can spare a few hours this Summer, please contact us!

 

 

 

 

KCC Guardian: Lawmakers Adjourn, Sine Die

Ending just before midnight this past Thursday, the legislature adjourned, sine die, for the 2017 legislative session. In the end, legislators passed 130 bills, including 22 that were being followed throughout the session by the Kentucky Conservation Committee. Of those 22 bills, there were six signed into law that KCC urged members to support, and eight that we opposed.

On the last day of the session, the Senate ended their work earlier in the evening and the House completed their work with just a few minutes to spare. While there were only a few bills remaining from KCC’s watch list, one of the last bills passed was House Bill 72, the KCC “strong oppose” bill which calls for an appeal bond to be filed for planning and zoning cases. We appreciate the KCC members and supporters who responded to our multiple requests for calls on this bill. Your calls made an impact, slowing this bill down to the end.

We believe this bill is unconstitutional, and places an undue burden on citizen groups who challenge development projects in their neighborhoods. The legislature filed several amendments, including exemptions for churches and exemptions for landfills. In the end, the bill that was passed had removed the exemption for churches and retained the exemption for landfills.

At several points, the House and Senate were unable to reconcile their differences on this legislation. In the end, a free conference committee was appointed to work out differences. The Free Conference Committee report was adopted in the Senate, passing 21-17, and then the bill passed the House 51-39, just a few minutes before the end of the session.

This bill is now being sent to the Governor’s desk. So you do have one last opportunity to make your voice heard.  We strongly urge our members and supporters to contact the Governor and request a veto of this bill.

One of the other more consequential bills to pass this week was HB156, establishing the Coalfields Endowment Fund. Last week we mentioned to you that this bill was amended to combine two separate bills, one which was focused on outdoor recreation for trail development on private land, and a second bill which was focused on funding to improve infrastructure, water, economic development, public health and technological access in the east and west Kentucky coal regions. Improvements will be funded with $7.5 million in state coal severance dollars, and projects will be selected based on their economic development and job creation potential and their ability to be self-sustaining.

The last bills to pass the legislature this week are listed below. These are now on the Governor’s desk.

  • HB72 (Strong Oppose) Planning and Zoning Appeals Bond
  • HB156 (Support) Coalfields Endowment Fund/Recreational Trails Authority
  • HB360 (Support) Expanding the definition of “Agricultural Use”
  • HB376 (Monitor) Reorganization of the Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

Summary: Bills that now become law

Most new laws will go into effect in late June. Here is a list of KCC bills which were either signed by the Governor or became law without the Governor’s signature:

  • HB35 (Strong Support) Establishing Public Benefit Corporations
  • HB50 (Strong Oppose) Addressing administrative regulations
  • HJR56 (Strong Support) Directs Division of Water to study private wastewater plants
  • HB119 (Monitor) Addressing waste management providers
  • HB163 (Support) Addressing titles for salvage autos
  • HB234 (Strong Oppose)  Amends requirements for mining permits
  • HB237 (Support) Addressing food and grocery donations
  • HB246 (Oppose) Solid Waste Management
  • HB384 (Strong Oppose) Reducing Mine Safety inspections
  • SB10 (Strong Oppose) Removes PSC authority, deregulating phone service in some exchanges
  • SB11 (Strong Oppose) Repeals the ban on nuclear plants /changes waste requirements
  • SB38 (Strong Support) Addressing penalties for timber theft
  • SB83 (Monitor) Increasing Deer and Elk permits for addressing safety risks
  • SB139 (Monitor) Amending the definition of “Livestock”
  • SB183 (Strong Oppose) Addressing reorganization of the Public Service Commission
  • SB222 (Oppose) Limiting the consecutive terms of a Mayor in consolidated governments (Became law without the Governor’s signature)
  • SB248 (Strong Support) Defining and regulating TENORM/Technologically-enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material from drilling operations.
  • SB249 (Monitor) Reorganization of the Energy and Environment Cabinet

KCC will be sending out a full detailed summary of this legislative session and issue brief to all members in good standing, which you should receive in a few weeks. If you are not currently a member of KCC, you may renew or join here.

Why are we waiting for clean power’s benefits?

GuardianHeader1Earlier this month I attended a hearing of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources, which included a presentation from the Energy and Environment Cabinet on the proposed Federal Clean Power Plan.

Under the Federal Clean Power Plan as currently proposed, Kentucky would need to reduce its power-sector carbon emissions rate 18% between 2012 and 2030. While this sounds like a significant reduction on the surface, the goal is far less stringent than most state goals across the country. More importantly, the information from Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet presented two very clear facts: That coal is continuing to decline in this state regardless of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and that Kentucky is well on its way to meeting the Plan’s goals.

EPA Clean Power Plan: http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards

What was unfortunate during this hearing, however, was the accompanying presentation by Paul Baily, Senior VP for the American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity. ACCCE encouraged lawmakers to delay any action in building a state implementation plan for the rule and then predicted that the rule would result in an “enormous” increase in electricity prices and risk to reliability, with a particular impact on low income communities.

First, several analyses of the Clean Power Plan indicate that by its full implementation in 2030, electric bills in Kentucky will be nearly 8% lower than without the plan, saving the average household over $100 annually.

http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/fact-sheet-clean-power-plan-benefits

(“Clean Power Plan to Lower Electricity Bills in Kentucky, Public Citizen, June 23, 2015, http://www.citizenvox.org/2015/06/23/clean-power-plan-to-lower-electricity-bills-in-kentucky-west-virginia/ )

Second, it seems somewhat disingenuous for coal lobbyists to be raising the question of the impacts of cleaner power to low income communities, after a long, well-known history of pollution and health impacts brought on by the coal industry to these very same communities.

Our most vulnerable citizens are the ones most at risk from the health impacts of climate change and air pollution. According to the Clean Air Task Force, 71% of African-Americans live in counties that violate federal air pollution standards, primarily caused by coal-fired power plant emissions.

(“Air of Injustice: African Americans and Power Plant Pollution” Clean Air Task Force, October 2002 http://www.catf.us/resources/publications/files/Air_of_Injustice.pdf.)

Impacts to low-income Appalachian mining communities are just as profound. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have shown distinct connections to declining health in coal mining areas of Appalachia, with public health costs of pollution from coal operations estimated to be $75 billion per year.

While the recent Supreme Court ruling will no doubt be a temporary setback for Federal regulations to clean up coal-fired power plants, it should not slow down the need for Kentucky to diversify its energy portfolio, improve the health of its citizens and create new jobs in the clean energy and energy efficiency sector.

Rather than accept the scare tactics from ACCCE, lawmakers should instead look to exciting opportunities for diversifying our energy needs, as demonstrated by presentation last week to the Special Subcommittee on Energy from the Kentucky School Board Association, which highlighted the fact that Kentucky is in the top ten percent of ENERGY STAR schools across the nation.

According to the presentation to the Energy Subcommittee, KSBA’s efforts have resulted in avoided energy costs of over $13 million annually, with the potential of significantly amplifying those savings across the state as the program grows. This came about as a result from state legislation passed in 2008 to promote the efficient use of energy in public buildings. These kinds of energy efficiency programs are something Kentucky legislators and the public can be proud of. Just imagine how much these benefits can be amplified by expanding and adding solar to the mix, as demonstrated by schools such as Richardsville Elementary in Warren County.

You would think that rather than hold on to old, dirty power, lawmakers would embrace incentives to quickly move Kentucky to a cleaner, more diversified portfolio of energy options that can expand this potential for new jobs and greater cost savings.

We realize that change is hard, but our schools are clearly leading the way to show that change is paying off. We must continue to support and encourage our legislators and leaders to adopt these energy efficiency and renewable energy policies. The more incentives our lawmakers build in today to increase efficiency and expand renewables, the more real dollars there will be for our future.