SB 13 ( the nuclear power bill) sailed out of the Tourism and energy Committee Thursday with several dissenting votes, but not enough to stop it. Tom Fitzgerald and myself were the only voices in opposition so it is becoming more likely that this bill will pass the House and be sent to the Governor. The reasoning is that this bill would simply start the conversation on nuclear power in Kentucky, which to me is like saying passing a bill to legalize manslaughter would get the discussion started on whether or not to legalize manslaughter. Proponents also like to say that even if it becomes law there won’t be any new nuclear plants in Kentucky for a long time even though the bill is not limited to nuclear power plants and could include other projects such as facilities to reprocess spent fuel. The place of nuclear power in the overall energy mix cannot be adequately debated until some provision is made on the National  level as to waste disposal. It is both an environmental and National security issue. However, as I mention in my ‘Eye on the Session” section in our KCC Alert, the forces behind coal, nuclear, grain-based ethanol, etc. are far better organized and funded than advocates for the other alternate energy sources.

Bad Bill days

In an irony that could only happen in Frankfort, the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee approved a bill to study the feasibility of producing oil and gas on State and University owned land and at the same time approved another bill to go ahead and start letting leases for doing just that. I guess someone already knows the outcome of the study. Tom Fitzgerald of the Kentucky Resources Council spoke eloquently in opposition to the measures, but since they were both sponsored by the chairman on the Committee (republican Tom Jensen) the bills passed out of committee with nary a dissenting vote. Please contact your legislator and tell him or her that we need to support a feasibility study that looks at all aspects of oil and gas production (SJR 67) before we start letting leases on sensitive State and University land (SB 138). We oppose SB 138 which would start the leasing process before the study is done. In other news, for some, unexplained reason SB 13  –the bill that would encourage the Nuclear power industry by doing away with the requirement that a new plant must have an approved disposal plan for it’s spent nuclear fuel — will be heard tomorrow in the Tourism and Energy Committee of the House. Yep, nothing elicits the call of  tourism like huge piles of spent nuclear waste. This bill is an enigma . I can’t tell what it’s really trying to address, nor can most people I talk to. We are going to make a run at killing it in committee tomorrow, but if that fails we will need a concerted effort by KCC members and friends to contact their legislator and keep another Maxy Flats nuclear fiasco from happening. This is a very bad bill.

Governor sets high-performance building standards for state

Governor Brashear held a press conference today ( Feb 18) to outline the new State construction standards for state supported construction or renovation. The standards were the product of requirements in HB 2 passed in 2008, and the bulk of the language for those requirements were crafted by the Kentucky Conservation Committee along with the Kentucky Resources Council and the Pollution Prevention program at U of L. The new regulations will require adherence to LEED ( Leadership in Energy and environmental Design) construction standards in all projects supported by at least 50% state funding on a sliding scale depending on the size of the project.

  • All new construction and major renovation projects of $25 million or more will be required to be designed to LEED Silver level or higher.
  • Projects between $5 million and 25 million must achieve basic LEED certification.
  • Smaller projects will use LEED guidelines in design and construction.

In other news, sources indicate that there is a strong move to have the provisions of SB 13 (which deletes the requirement for Nuclear power plants to have approved disposal plans and allows for storage of spent fuel) changed to a study to assess the feasibility of such a plan. The KCC would strongy support this approach. The lesson of Maxey Flats , Kentucky’s failed venture into the nuclear disposal business, tells us that one State cannot create a nuclear power industry on its own. The session starts up again on the 23rd.

Money and Energy

Eye on the Session

Money, money and money are the three main topics of conversation around the halls of the Capitol this session. I’ve talked to more than one high-ranking official in the Executive Cabinets who say that State Government lay-offs are imminent. Suffice it to say that all other issues have by default become secondary to budget issues.

On the Environmental front, it seems that a re-visitation of the “Stream Saver” bill (HB 104 filed by Rep. Pasley and it’s Senate companion SB 100 by Senator Kathy Stein) will likely have the same result as last time (no hearing in the committee of origin). SB 13 by Senator Bob Leeper seeks to revitalize the moribund nuclear power industry by dropping the requirement that the plants must have a means to dispose of nuclear waste and changing it to requiring a plan for storage of waste for recovery at a later date. KCC along with other environmental groups has taken a stand strongly opposing any attempt to restart the nuclear power industry without first dealing with the issue of waste disposal.This makes sense from both an environmental and a homeland security perspective.SB 55 by Sen. R. Jones would grant alternate energy status under the Incentive for Energy Independence Act to new or existing coal-fired electric generators if they meet a few rather nebulous energy saving/carbon reducing requirements, seemingly giving them an 80% severance tax credit for essentially doing what they are doing now. True energy independance must go hand-in-hand with sustainability and innovation, this bill would draw funds away from these efforts. HJR 7 would direct the U of K to study and make recommendations on the effects of mining in the Robinson forest, an area already designated as unsuitable for mining. Also,  Senate Resolution ( SJR 67) calls for a study of  pontential oil and gas production on State or University owned lands … look out Mr. Woodchuck! Rep Leslie Combs has a packet of good forest conservation bills dealing with timber harvesting (HB 211) that would extend oversight of timber operations to woodcutting and recovery for purpose of Energy production, and HBs 396 and 397 which would put more teeth into enforcement of logging rules.

The main theme of most environmental endeavors these days seems to be energy. It is likely that incentives for increasing coal production will increase along with other forms of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. Carbon sequestration will be looming, ( see HB 351) but any full-scale push in this direction will have to come from Washington, and any perceived impediments to the production of coal in this Legislature will be met with strong resistance. We can make a difference by contacting our Legislatures  on these issues and in particular on the proliferation of new nuclear power plants without an acceptable means of disposal of the waste. The Kentucky Conservation Committee, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Sierra Club and others will speak on this Friday the 13th at 10:30 in the main office of the LFCUG at 200 Main St, Lex. Try and attend if possible