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.