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A Busy (but fun!) Summer of Activities

You would think that after the end of a long legislative session, we would be taking a break, but it has been a very busy summer here at the Kentucky Conservation Committee. We are presently continuing our work on several initiatives from the legislative session, such as our work do defend land conservation funding, support for electric cars, pollinator programs, clean energy and more. In addition, we have been trying to get out and about across the state to meet with groups and citizens in a wide range of legislative districts.

We started the summer by attending a screening of the new film, The Human Element, which was shown in both Louisville and Lexington. KCC is helping to coordinate additional screenings of this film over the rest of the Summer and Fall throughout the state. If you have a facility that is interested in showing the film, please contact us.

We’ve also been taking the time to explore other initiatives happening around the state and beyond starting with Kentucky’s Pollinator Program, where State Apiarist Tammy Horn hosted a day at one of the University of Kentucky’s research farms. UK interns showed us an array of research gardens with test plots of milkweed and native plants designed to inform best practices for monarch waystations and effective habitat restoration. We finished the day at Columbia Gas, where they have been experimenting with ways to transform utility corridors to promote more monarch-friendly habitat.

We also took the opportunity to check out the innovative programs happening at Mt. Folly Farm in Winchester, where Laura Freeman (formerly known for Laura’s Lean Beef products) has developed a wonderful suite of locally-based agricultural initiatives, out at her historic 1790s log house and organic farm. The compound features heirloom crops and heritage corn, plus her newly-planted CBD hemp plantation, used for Laura’s  CBD oil and hemp chocolate products. Her farm is being designed to become a “carbon sink,” and the farming complex is open for birding and biking on Saturdays. See story about Laura’s work here.

We also traveled to Nolin Rural Electric Co-Operative in Elizabethtown, which has become America’s first PEER-certified electric co-operative. PEER is a standard from the US Green Building Council that stands for Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal. Nolin achieved its PEER “Gold” status by launching an emergency response plan for reliable service, by continually monitoring power quality on each service point on its 3,000-mile system, and by establishing enhanced tracking to determine root causes of any equipment failure and to identify problems. To learn more about PEER, go to: http://peer.gbci.org

Finally, we had the pleasure of attending the U.S. Climate Action Network Annual Conference, where KCC has been a member group for several years. The annual conference is where hundreds of organizations, with a particular emphasis on small and frontline groups, help to set climate priorities across the nation. KCC is presently compiling some of the best examples of local climate work in here in Kentucky for a project we will be releasing later this year. So watch for that soon!

So what is in store for the rest of the summer??

You can plan on seeing us once again out at the Kentucky Heartwood Music Festival on Saturday, July 28th in scenic Millville, Kentucky for starters. The event runs from 3-10PM rain or shine, so come on out!!

KCC’s Foundation is also one of the charities registered for the Birdies for the Bluegrass event, which is a PGA tour event to support charities throughout the region. So please ask your golfing friends (and others) to check out our foundation’s charity page for the event, and make a pledge per birdie! We appreciate if you can spread the word!

And because our work is at its most successful when we grow our strategic partnerships, we want to draw your attention to the upcoming  Justice First tour, which focuses on building solidarity in the South by combining environmental justice, climate justice, economic justice and racial justice. The tour will be in Louisville on August 3rd, 2018. The tour will be visiting the Joshua Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 426 South 15thStreet, from 6-8pm.

Finally, we plan on ending the season with our presentation of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Lexington, to be held on Thursday, August 30th at the Kentucky Theatre. If you have attended one of these festivals in the past, you know they are jam-packed with wonderful outdoor films, with each screening featuring a new mix of films custom-selected by the sponsoring organization. We’ve selected 14 short films that include a wide variety of hiking, birding and travel adventure films as a fundraiser for KCC. We want to thank our major sponsors for the event, which include: Solar Energy Solutions, West Sixth Brewery, J&H Lanmark Outfitters, Wild Birds Unlimited Lexington, Republic Bank, Quantrell Subaru and Good Foods Co-Op. Thanks to the Kentucky Sierra Club for their in-kind promotion support. We are presently helping to collect silent auction items for the Kentucky Conservation Foundation’s Silent Auction, which will run simultaneously with KCC’s film fest, so if you are interested in contributing items, please contact us.

 

 

Finally, some “Thank You’s” And Actions

We wish to thank Senator McGarvey and Representative Donohue for their recent editorial on how some utilities are rolling back energy efficiency programs. See story here. If you are an LG&E-KU customer and would like to submit your own thoughts to the Public Service Commission on these rollbacks, please send email to psc.info@ky.gov no later than July 23rd, note “Case No. 2017-00441” in your subject line, and include your name and USPS mailing address in the body of your note.

 

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Spring is Here…Time to Learn and Reflect

The Importance of Biodiversity: Those of us at KCC have been spending the past few weeks getting out in the public at spring events,  reflecting on the session, and finding new ways to add value to our connection with our constituents. Last month we had the pleasure of attending several public events, including the Kentucky Green Living Fair in Somerset, the Green Festival in Springfield, and other opportunities where we could make our way across the state. We met with native plant nurseries, beekeepers, solar companies and others who represent the issues we support. One of the vendors I encountered, Salamander Springs, was selling heirloom corn and I was fascinated with the story behind it…because it reminded me why protecting Kentucky’s unique biodiversity is not just about protecting a species, but also about preserving a culture and a way of life. These seeds were cultivated from a strain dating back to the 1800’s, improved by farmer Daymon Morgan. I may have met Daymon at one time or another, as he was very active in conservation circles before he passed a few years ago.

But what I do remember was the Leslie County hollow in which he lived. This was diverse hollow, once rich with clear streams and native plants. I visited this hollow on a regular basis for many many years, hiking the roads, studying the streams and observing over time the impacts created by a massive mountaintop mine operation as it slowly devoured tracts within the hollow over the course of a decade. I often hear the criticism that conservationists are simply folks resistant to change. However in witnessing the change within this hollow, I believe what we are resistant to is losing are the things that contribute to the richness of our very lives. So this spring I am taking some time to be thankful for that richness, plant me some rows of Kentucky Rainbow corn, and reflect on what makes our mission so important.

Climate Change: A few weeks ago we were privileged to co-sponsor, with our partners at Strobo-Barkley, a visit from Carroll Muffett , President of the Center for International Environmental Law and former Kentucky native. Carroll gave a wonderful presentation in Louisville about CIEL’s work on exposing the full history of how fossil fuel companies have masked their research on climate change. If you were not able to join us, you can watch the discussion here. If you would like to read more about the project, exposing internal fossil fuel documents on the climate crisis, click here.

New Tools, New Legislative Summary: KCC focuses primarily on legislative work, and we do not promote specific candidates for office. However we do try to provide our constituents with tools to promote an informed and educated base. So this month, we have included bipartisan information to our list of legislators in the House and Senate, adding where there are currently challengers in those districts. We also have been asked on how legislators voted on specific bills this session, so we are offering you a sneak preview of a bill scorecard from the 2018 session. We have listed all of the bills and resolutions  we ranked as either a “strong support” or “strong oppose” this session, plus a few more, and also indicated how each lawmaker voted. In situations where a vote did not take place, we at least listed the sponsors and co-sponsors.  We hope you will find these new tools helpful.

We are also excited to let you know that our 2018 Legislative Review and Conservation Brief is at the printer now…and will be mailed to current members in good standing in the next week or two. In the meantime, you are welcome to view the digital version below. If you are not yet a member of KCC and would like to receive a print copy, please email us. You are also invited to become a member.

Upcoming Events:

KCC will be at two events this Saturday, May 12: the Bluegrass Birding Festival at McConnell Springs in Lexington from 9-4, and we have also been invited as a special guest speaker at the Evolve Lexington electric vehicle group, who will be meeting on Saturday at the Lexington Main Library from 2-4, 140 East Main Street. We hope to see you at one of these events!

Fundraisers: Help Us Spread The Word! KCC’s charitable foundation, the Kentucky Conservation Foundation, will be participating this month for Kentucky Gives Day, May 22nd. We would very much appreciate if you could help us by spreading the word and invite your friends to support this fundraiser. KCF is the fiscal sponsor for KCC’s educational work. To learn more about Kentucky Gives day, click here.

Our Foundation will also be participating in Birdies for the Bluegrass, a charitable golf tournament held in July. Beginning in June, donors can go online to www.birdiesforthebluegrass.com and pledge to give an amount to your organization for every birdie a professional golfer makes in the tournament. We hope you will help us spread the word in support of our environmental education work through the Kentucky Conservation Foundation.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival: Mark Your Calendars! KCC will once again be hosting the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, slated for the evening of Thursday, August 30th at the Kentucky Theatre in Lexington. Watch this space for details, and if you are interested in being a sponsor for this year’s festival please email us!

 

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Session Adjourned…the Work Continues

While we await the final signatures from the Governor, I would like to take some time to thank all of our members and supporters, as well as our KCC Partner Groups and Affiliates, for their support this session. We also want to thank our legislative affiliates at Strobo Barkley.

There are several bills still that have now been signed into law, and some still on the Governor’s desk. While we were pleased to see the anti-solar bill HB227 stopped, we were equally disappointed to see that the $5 million in funding (over two years) for the Heritage Land Conservation Fund was swept into the general fund, despite everyone’s best efforts. So we encourage you to find other ways to support your local nature preserves for now by offering to provide volunteer assistance for trail maintenance and please continue to purchase the Nature Plates, as they still need what revenue they do still receive.

To see the latest updates, go to our website for our fully-updated status of House and Senate bills. Members in good standing will also be receiving our full legislative summary booklet once the Governor completes his signatures. So if you are not currently a member and wish to receive the legislative summary, you can join here.

Latest House Bill Status Here

Latest Senate Bill Status Here

 

Upcoming Events:
Louisville Earth Walk, Saturday, April 21

And then we hope you will join us in Louisville this Saturday, April 21, for the Louisville Earth Walk! Registration information HERE . Proceeds will benefit KCC’s Foundation and many other great organizations.


Fossil Fuels, Corporations and Liability for Climate Change,
Thursday, April 26

The Kentucky Conservation Committee presents “A Crack in the Shell: Fossil Fuels, Corporations, and Liability for Climate Change.” on April 26 from 7pm-8:30pm at the Thomas Jefferson Church in Louisville. Join Us for an Evening with Kentucky’s Own Carroll Muffett, President, Center for International Environmental Law, Moderated by: Katie Bulinski, Associate Professor, Bellarmine University School of Environmental Studies.  Sponsored by Kentucky Conservation Committee, Kentucky Resources Council, Bellarmine School of Environmental Studies, Kentucky Solar Energy Society “KySES”, Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church/Louisville, KY, Louisville Climate Action Network and Strobo Barkley PLLC. Address of Thomas Jefferson Church is 4936 Brownsboro Rd, Louisville, Ky. The event is free and open to the public.

 

The Work Continues

During the interim session, KCC expects to be engaging members in ongoing projects. The session has left us ongoing work to do in several areas:

  • Continuing our work to expand access to solar energy. We will be continuing this work through our partnership with the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance and the new allies we have engaged through the session.
  • Supporting funding for land conservation and related issues through the Conserve Kentucky initiative.
  • The dialogue on green transportation will continue. Since the transportation funding bill did not pass, the question of how we fund our roads as we grow the market for more efficient cars is a debate which will continue during the interim session.
  • We will also be spending the off-session period supporting the state’s pollinator plan and related issues.
  • Finally, KCC is currently working with allies on a revised Climate Action Plan for Kentucky.

If you are interested in working with us on any of these projects, please contact us at 502-209-9659.

 

Honoring Oscar Geralds, Jr.

“Oscar firmly believed that humans were the stewards of God’s creation and spent most of his adult life advocating to make this so.”

KCC regrets to inform their members that one of our great heroes, Oscar Geralds, Jr., passed on Sunday, April 15th, the day after the legislative session concluded.

I have never known a man with more integrity and honor, and I will miss his friendship and his unwavering defense of the Creation we all share. The earth is lucky to have had this humble lawyer in its court. This legislative session, Senator Julian Carroll passed a resolution on the 50th anniversary of the protest hike that brought national attention to the campaign to save the Red River Gorge, where Oscar’s contributions on the issues impacting the Gorge were instrumental toward its protection.

When I moved to Kentucky, I had  begun my adventure into environmental advocacy through the local Sierra Club, where I first met Oscar Geralds (learn more about Oscar’s early history in the Sierra Club and his role in helping to save the Red River Gorge here). Oscar opened up his office, and his home, to myself and many other members on a regular basis. Many may not be aware that the Sierra Club in Kentucky literally ran out of Oscar’s downtown Lexington law office for many, many years, where we held newsletter committee meetings, conservation meetings, and the occasional happy hour. (It was often said that ‘it wasn’t a Sierra Club event without red wine’). When Oscar closed the law firm about a decade ago, he continued to open his house to members and friends regularly…whenever anyone in our crew was having a particularly good or bad week, a call would go out for ‘happy hour’ and we all would arrive at Oscar’s place.

My first years in his company were largely spent hiking and backpacking with him. Having served in the Army, he had the stamina to out-hike people far younger than himself, with a slow, steady pace, and could usually outlast most of us young’uns by the end of a full hiking day. He continued to hike well into his 60’s and 70’s, where I watched in amazement to see him boulder-scramble with his walking stick up the steep climbs in parts of the Gray’s Arch loop. I once watched him trip on a root at the beginning of the Koomer Ridge hike where he did a full head-over heels somersault, but dusted himself off and continued to complete leading his group on a 7-mile loop. Two days later, we found that he had broken a rib in the fall. My favorite hike with Oscar was his annual pre-thanksgiving hike at Natural Bridge, hiking up to Natural Bridge and then down via the Sand Gap perimeter trail….a long, somewhat unremarkable 9-mile walk, but a great way to spend an entire day on the trail.  Oscar had the hike timed precisely in his notebook, and would adjust and record his timing each year. As the years passed, it became more difficult for him to reach the end of the long trail before dark, but he was always able to finish.

I spent many great adventures backpacking with Oscar as well. He knew all of the best ‘hidden’ places in the Red River Gorge, and would always take his trusty old-school A-frame style Eureka 7 lb.  tent and canvas frame pack as his gear of choice.

About a decade ago, the State Nature Preserves Commission arranged to dedicate the trail at Pilot Knob in his name. His remarks to us were somewhere along the lines of asking why we picked such a damn steep trail. To no one’s real surprise though, he decided to hike the 2.5 mile ‘very strenuous’ ascending trail to the overlook that day, to the spot where Daniel Boone first laid eyes upon the Bluegrass Region.

In later years, Oscar and his wife Frankie continued their activities by opening their home volunteers in the Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors program, which brings underprivileged youth to the outdoors. Oscar was involved in far too many other activities and accomplishments to mention, but these are the ones I will remember the most.

Oscar was my inspiration and mentor for defending our natural environment. I only hope that through my role with KCC, that I can accomplish a fraction of the great works that he accomplished in his 88 years on this planet. I will miss him dearly.

-Lane Boldman, KCC Executive Director

Services will be held 1 pm Thurs, April 19 at Calvary Baptist Church, 150 E. High Street, Lexington, KY Visitation will be 10 am–12:30 pm Thursday at the church. More information here.

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The Final Week

Update, Noon, 4/9: Governor Bevin now expected to veto the budget and revenue bills. While the budget and revenue bills are now in question, we ask that you still continue your calls…please continue to tell Governor Bevin, AND the House and Senate, that you do not approve of the funding “sweeps” to the Heritage Land Conservation Fund. These sweeps are no way to balance a budget.

As we open this last week of the legislative session, we begin with five more days on the calendar in the veto period.  Once a bill passes the House and Senate, the Governor may sign a bill, permit it to become law without signature, or veto it. The Governor has 10 days (excluding Sundays) to veto a bill after it is received. In Kentucky, the Governor also has the right to line-item veto, as provided by the Kentucky Constitution, which means the Governor can disapprove any part or parts of appropriation bills embracing distinct items. The part or parts that are disapproved do not become law unless the veto is overridden by a majority of the members of both houses.

On Friday and Saturday of this week (April 13 & 14), the legislature reconvenes for the last two days of the session. This means that anything passed at this time can still be vetoed by the Governor, however the legislative branch would no longer have days left to override.

So it is important for you to take actions this week on remaining bills.
Please see the KCC Alerts page for actions we suggest for this week.

Important actions still include:

  • Funding for Land Conservation in HB200
  • Stopping House Bill 227
  • Fees on Electric & Hybrid Cars in HB609

On the anti-residential solar bill, we want to highlight this week’s editorial from the Lexington Herald-Leader…”HB 227’s backers have provided no evidence, only hype and divisive propaganda, that non-solar customers are hurt even a tiny bit by the net metering law that allows households to receive credits on future bills for excess solar power they feed into their utilities’ wires.”

But the most important point of the editorial is in highlighting (as we have mentioned in earlier blogs), the record spending from utilities to pass this bill. Read more here.

 

Join us on Saturday, April 14thfor lunch
(and the end of the session)

KCC will be hosting a Groupraise meal at Sage Restaurant in Frankfort. Come have lunch or an early dinner at Sage from 11am to 4pm and they will donate 25% to our educational Foundation. We need to have 15 more people register in advance (by April 11) in order for us to be eligible for the donation, so if you are planning to come to Frankfort for the session, OR you simply wanting to come to town for a great lunch or a visit to Wilson’s Garden Center to start your spring plantings, then come join us!! Please register in advance so that we can be eligible for this donation credit!

Louisville Earth Walk April 21

And then we hope you will join us in Louisville on April 21 for the Louisville Earth Walk!Registration information HERE Proceeds will benefit KCC’s Foundation and many other great organizations.

 

Thanks to You

Our work during this long session has taken a lot of resources, and our strength has been from your membership support, but also from our alliances with many partners. We want to THANK all of our partner groups and allies for their support and assistance during this long legislative session. We particularly want to thank our friends at Kentucky Resources Council, Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, Sierra Club, Kentucky Solar Energy Society, Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and ALL of the KCC Partner Groups who support our work. Most importantly, we want to thank KCC’s trusted partner Randy Strobo of Strobo Barkley PLLC.

Please encourage your friends to join us or donate to  help grow our base and support our work.

Latest House Bill Status Here

Latest Senate Bill Status Here

General Assembly: Two Legislative Days to Go

The General Assembly recessed late in the evening on Monday, April 2nd, the 58th day of the 60-day session. We are now in a period for the Governor to either sign or veto bills. The legislature will re-convene on April 13, and will finish the session on April 14. So you now have two working days left to make an impact.

We are pleased to say that, through your actions, we were able to hold off a vote of the anti-net metering bill HB227 at the close of session on Monday. However this bill will likely be taken up once the legislature re-convenes on the 13th, so please continue to make your calls and send your emails.

Utilities have spent tens of thousands of dollars on contract lobbyists and print ads to see this bill through, and your legislators may be under the impression that the substitute versions that have offered are an improvement. But they are no improvement, and we are continuing to urge constituents to send the message that this bill is NO compromise, does NOT protect solar jobs and residential solar owners and utilities have NOT presented evidence of the impact to ratepayers. The bill will still have to pass the Senate in the last two days of the session, and then will have to confer with the House version before it can be sent to the Governor’s desk.

We were disappointed, however, to see that despite all of your calls, and a sign-on letter from 47 land constituency groups, that the funding “sweep” of $5 million in funds from the Heritage Land Conservation Fund remain in the current Free Conference Committee version of the budget bill (HB200) that was passed. The bill has now been sent to the Governor’s desk, however there is still an opportunity for this language to be struck through a line-item veto. So please contact Governor Bevin and urge him to “line item veto the funding sweep for the Heritage Land Conservation Fund” ($5 million total).

Bills and resolutions passed and/or signed by the Governor to date:

  • HB22 (KCC Oppose) Drone Bill, Became law without signature on 3/24
  • HB33 (KCC Support) Bike Safety Bill, signed 3/29
  • HB140 (KCC Oppose) Training stipend for law enforcement, paid from Game & Fish Fund, signed 4/2
  • HB264 (KCC Monitor) Reorganization of the Energy & Environment Cabinet, Signed 3/28
  • HB370 (KCC Support) Streamlining of environmental remediation, signed on 4/2
  • SB7 (KCC Monitor) Rare disease task force. VETOED on 4/2
  • SB104 (KCC Monitor) Reporting for underground excavation. Signed 4/2.
  • SB129 (KCC Monitor) Reorganization of the Energy & Environment Cabinet, signed 3/27
  • SR157 (KCC Support) 50th Anniversary of the Gorge Hike, adopted 3/31
  • SJR218 (KCC Support) Addressing food waste and charities. Signed 3/29
  • SB249 (KCC Support) Oil and Gas administrative hearings restructure. Signed 4/2

Bills and resolutions currently on the Governor’s Desk:

  • HCR7 (KCC Oppose) Black Vulture resolution, sent on 3/29
  • HB114 (KCC Monitor) TVA in-lieu-of revenue bill, sent on 3/29
  • HB200 (KCC Oppose) Budget Bill, sent 4/2,
    Ask the Governor to line-item veto the sweeps to the Heritage Land Conservation Fund.
  • HB202 (KCC Monitor) Road Project Authorization, sent on 4/2
  • HB204 (KCC Monitor) Legislative Branch Budget Bill, sent on 4/2
  • HB261 (KCC Monitor) Mining statute provisions. Sent on 3/27
  • HB324 (KCC Oppose) Trespass on Infrastructure. Sent on 4/2
  • HB366 (KCC Monitor) Republican’s revenue bill. Sent on 4/2
  • SB151 (KCC Monitor) Formerly a sewer bill, now a pension bill, sent on 3/29

You may contact Governor Bevin’s office at this link.

And check the status of other bills to see if they are making their way to the Governor’s desk, or if there is still time to act! See our updated list with full analysis of House bills and Senate bills.

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General Assembly Week Thirteen: Solar Action Now

Week Thirteen: Solar Action Now:
This week will be a big week for the two main issues that have dominated this session for KCC members:  Land conservation funding and solar net metering. While land conservation funding (in HB200 Budget bill) is still being debated in a special budget conference committee, the anti-net-metering bill is getting dangerously close to becoming law. Monday, April 2nd,  is when we anticipate a final push on this bill.
The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee passed HB 227 SCS1 this week with a vote of 6 (Carpenter, Harris, Hornback, Westerfield, Schickel, McDaniel) to 3 (Smith, Jones, Turner and then there were two absent members Embry, Webb). This committee sub essentially abolishes net metering as we know it.

A few lowlights of HB227 as passed by the Senate Natural Resources Committee:

1.     Excludes consideration of the benefits that solar provides to the grid and ratepayers.

2.     HB227 creates an inefficient and costly regulatory process that will burden the PSC and solar industry with the need to perpetually re-litigate net metering in regularly recurring rate cases for all 23 retail electric utilities.

3.     HB 227 radically changes how net metering operates by changing the “monthly netting” of energy production to “instantaneous netting.” Currently, a net metering customer “nets” what they generate and what they use, over a billing period, at the same value. There is no incentive to “overbuild” a solar array since it would create credits that would never be used. HB227 ends monthly “netting” of use and generation, and imposes “instantaneous” netting, so that the PSC could set the value for all electricity fed into the grid, not just the excess over use in a month. This greatly reduces the value of a customer’s solar investment, while the utility saves money during peak periods by selling that solar energy to other customers.

4.     HB227 places hard caps on the solar market by allowing utilities to stop offering net metering to new customers when solar reaches 1% of their annual peak load and by limiting solar array size to 30 kilowatts. For comparison, Indiana allows net metering up to 1,000 kilowatts and Ohio has no size limits!

5.     HB227 may jeopardize grandfathering. New language appears to exclude system transfer, devaluing solar for those who have already installed systems.

6.     HB227 lacks a phase-out. The transition from 12/31/18 to 1/1/19 will be abrupt and stark.  Under HB227 residential net metering effectively dies 12/31/18.


After a long Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee meeting,
the bill passed at around 1:30 PM on Thursday. The full Senate then went into session at around 2 PM. In the meantime that same afternoon, the House snuck in a 291 page pension bill as a sub to a Senate wastewater treatment bill with no notice (this was Senate Bill 151, which had been a KCC Support bill as wastewater legislation). This pension bill was called in committee while the full house was in recess, was passed out of committee and was called on the full house floor. It barely passed the house. The senate then immediately took up the bill. At around 11 PM on Thursday, the wastewater bill with the pension sub passed the full senate.

This means that the full senate did not have time to deal with the net metering bill. And due to schedule changes, the House and Senate recessed for the week. Senator Morgan McGarvey did file a floor amendment asking the PSC to also consider “measurable benefits” of solar to the utility and ratepayers before the close of the session but that would still need to be taken up when the session resumes.

The earliest the senate could consider the bill is Monday, April 2. If it passes the Senate, the House then has to pass the same language. Remember, the house only barely passed HB 227 on a vote of 45-42. On top of that, the house and senate still have to pass a budget and also now deal with the anger of teachers across the state.
We still have a chance of defeating this anti-solar bill. HOWEVER it will require KCC advocates and partners to make one last concerted effort starting NOW. We hate to infringe on your Easter holiday, but we hope you will fill legislator’s email boxes in both the House and Senate, because lawmakers may assume this new bill substitute is a compromise. IT IS NOT.
KCC agents will also be on hand first thing Monday at the Capitol Annex to assist any citizens who attempt to corral their legislators! Call us at 502-209-9659.

Other Bill Movement This Week:

We still do not know if funding has been restored to the Heritage Land Conservation Fund in the budget bill. The bill negotiations are being handled by a free conference committee consisting of senators McDaniel, Thayer, Stivers II, Higdon, Wilson, Seum, Givens, Ridley, Jones II, and Parrett and  Representatives  Osborne, Rudy, Shell, Meade, Bratcher, Carney, Tipton, Stone, Keene, Adkins, See additional information and actions on our special Conserve Kentucky page.
Several bills and resolutions have now also moved on to the Governor’s desk this week to sign or veto. Those include:
  • HCR 7 – Migratory bird depredation permits for black vultures (KCC Oppose)
  • HB114 – TVA in-lieu-of-tax revenue bill (KCC Monitor)
  • HB140 – Asks for annual training stipend paid to all conservation officers be paid from the game and fish fund (KCC Oppose)
  • HB261 – Amends several mining statute provisions (KCC Monitor)
  • HB370 – Streamlines the voluntary environmental remediation program application process for contaminated properties. (KCC Support)
  • SB7 – Establishes a rare disease advisory task force. (KCC Monitor)
  • SB107 – Requires underground facility operators to report to the PSC excavation damage to an underground facility used in the transportation of gas or hazardous liquid (KCC Monitor)
  • SB249 – Restructures and reorganizes Department of Oil and Gas administrative hearings (KCC Support)

If you wish to comment on any of these bills and resolutions, please contact Governor Bevin.

General Assembly Week Twelve: Budget to Conference Committee

We start this week approaching Day 56 of the 60-day KY legislative session. This week includes two working days, then begins a two-week veto period for Governor Bevin to consider bills. After that, lawmakers have 2 days to override vetoes or pass more bills.

This means that we only have a short time left to act, and that anything can happen in the days remaining. This week we continue to be focused on the two issues that have been our concern all session: Anti-residential solar legislation and the State Budget.

Governor Bevin’s budget contained a 6.25 percent budget cut to most state programs and eliminated state funding for 70 programs. While some of these programs have now been restored to either the House or Senate versions of the budget bill (HB200), the one issue on KCC’s radar is the fact that both the House and Senate versions still sweep $5 million from the Heritage Land Conservation Fund, the state’s ONLY funding for land conservation and the maintenance of those lands.

In order to deal with the differences in both the House and Senate versions of the budget bill, it has been turned over to a special “free conference committee” representing both parties to work out the differences. That committee consists of Senators McDaniel, Thayer, Stivers II, Higdon, Wilson, Seum, Givens, Ridley, Jones II, and Parrett. and House members Osborne, Rudy, Shell, Meade, Bratcher, Carney, Tipton, Stone, Keene, Adkins.

See our Action Alerts page for the actions we ask you to take this week and watch for special mid-week alerts in these final days to act.

“Thank You’s” Needed:
We also want to take a moment to acknowledge two representatives who’s comments on the anti-residential solar bill were most important to the debate on solar. Please THANK Representative Jim Duplessis and Representative Tim Couch for their comments on HB227, and for supporting solar homeowners and standing up to utilities.

 

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General Assembly Week Eleven: On to the Governor

This week starts on the fifty-second day of the sixty-day legislative session. With only a few more days for action, bills are now beginning to make their way to the Governor’s desk. Of most concern is HB22 (KCC Oppose), delivered to the Governor on March 12th. This bill prohibits the use of drones and evidence gathered by drones except for law enforcement purposes. This would challenge the use of drones for citizen monitoring of environmental hazards. Also delivered to the Governor this week was HB264 (KCC Monitor), a reorganization bill that affects several departments, including the Energy & Environment Cabinet. Similarly, SB129 (KCC Monitor) is another bill that addressing the reorganization of the Energy & Environment Cabinet. An improved committee substitute is what has moved on to the Governor’s desk.

We had a lot of activity this week in Frankfort…KCC has been continuing to help groups of citizens with their legislative visits all session, and last week was no exception as citizens raise their concerns about the funding for land conservation (HB200 KCC Strong Oppose) and solar regulations (HB227 KCC Strong Oppose). You can find special detailed information about both bills, including status and informational handouts on our website, and we hope you make use of these materials this week as time becomes critical on these two bills. Land conservation information here. Anti-residential solar bill information here. This week is a critical one for both bills.

HB227 has now moved to the Senate, after yet another hastily-called, non-televised meeting of the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee. (KCC, however, filmed the proceedings themselves, which you can watch on our Facebook page here). The bill quickly moved to the House and after a two-hour debate the bill squeezed through on a 49-45 vote. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Natural Resources Committee. This committee’s next scheduled meeting is this Wednesday at 11AM. We urge you to contact members of the committee and ask them to vote NO on HB227.  And then, contact the full Senate and do the same. (See this excellent article by Tom Eblen at the Lexington Herald-Leader on recent developments on this bill). You may call the message line at 1-800-372-7181 to oppose this bill.

There is still also time to ask the Senate A&R Committee to restore funding for land conservation in the House Budget Bill, HB200. So please continue to make those calls as well.

Also this week, we had the pleasure of hosting the electric vehicle advocacy group, Evolve Ky, who treated legislators to a screening of their new film of the same name, featuring the electric car culture in Kentucky. Watch for public film screenings at a theatre or community gathering near you soon! We are still watching legislation that would add new fees to electric and hybrid cars, including HB609 (KCC Oppose), a transportation-funding bill which is picking up speed and currently resides in the House A&R Committee. So please call House A&R to oppose flat fees for these vehicles. While we believe that all vehicles should pay their fair share for the maintenance of road infrastructure, there are better ways to address this.

In addition, we were honored to hold a special presentation of the amazing on-woman show from KCC board member Alice Jones, in her portrayal of the Braun Sisters in the show “Sisters of the Mother Forest- The Story of Lucy and Annette Braun.” Our thanks to Alice and to KCC President Sarah Lynn Cunningham for taking precious time out of their busy schedules to put on this presentation in Louisville this past week.

Finally, on a bright note, we were pleased to see the honoring of the 50th Anniversary of the historic hike to save the Red River Gorge on the floor of the Senate this week with the reading of SR157 (KCC Support). Citizens including family & friends of the Kentucky Afield Radio Show (which featured the anniversary) and citizens who were connected to the fight were honored on the Senate floor. KCC’s origins are tied to this important story of citizen activism to stop the flooding of one of Kentucky’s greatest natural treasurers, as many of our partner groups were directly involved in this fight that lasted for decades. Stories like these, where small groups of citizens band together and grow their advocacy over a span of years to protect what makes Kentucky great, is a reminder that no challenge is impossible, and democracy matters.

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General Assembly Week Ten: The Week to ACT!

We start this week at the 47th day into a 60-day legislative session. So we anticipate a fast-moving week as we soon approach the “veto” period, which will begin on March 29th.

Our attention remains largely on the two primary bills which have held our concern all session: HB200 (Budget bill which has removed funding for land conservation and environmental education) and HB227 (anti-residential solar bill).

Our highest concern this week is with HB200. The House Budget bill did restore funding for the Kentucky Mesonet Program at the Kentucky Climate Center, which was one of our concerns. However the bill still “sweeps” $5 million in funding from the Heritage Land Conservation Fund (more information and special handouts on the land conservation issue HERE) and also removes funding for environmental education. See the KCC Alerts Page for our recommended actions on this bill With time counting down, we need the Senate to act to get this funding restored. This is the most important week for you to make your calls and send your emails on this bill, so please share our action information with friends.

KCC members and supporters have made an incredible effort to slow down HB227, despite overwhelming resources spent to pass this legislation. The bill is STILL stuck in the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee, awaiting a vote on a new committee substitute before it can move on to the House. While the substitute has not been posted, we understand what is being proposed is still highly flawed and unfair to customers who have invested in residential solar. See the KCC Alerts Page for our recommended actions on this bill. While we are pleased that this legislation has stalled, there is still time for it to move quickly through the House and Senate.

We are also looking forward this week to two events: KCC will be helping filmmaker Ben Evans and members of the Evolve electric vehicle group, where we will be hosting two screenings of Ben’s latest film on electric vehicles in coal country. We will be screening the film for legislators on Tuesday and Thursday at the Capitol Annex. See the KCC Alerts Page for information about two pieces of legislation proposing new fees on electric vehicles.

Our second event will be this Friday, March 16th in Louisville, where we are hosting a special presentation of “Sisters of the Mother Forest”…the story of Lucy and Annette Braun…featuring KCC board member Alice Jones in this one-woman presentation. We hope you can join us! See information here.

 

KCC “Support” Bills On the Move:

  • HB33, the “Safe Bicycle Passing Law.” This bill has now been through the House Transportation Committee and is posted for passage in the Senate Transportation Committee.
  • HB370 streamlines the voluntary environmental remediation program application process for contaminated properties. This bill has now passed the House Natural Resources Committee and is now in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
  • HB513 allows the Energy and Environment Cabinet to require structural analyses and secure financial or performance measures for small wastewater treatment plants before issuing CWA discharge permits. Allows the Cabinet to appoint a receiver to assume the management and operations of a plant. This bill is now through its second reading in House Natural Resources and should pass on to the Senate shortly.
  • SJR218 Directs state agencies to conduct self-studies to examine current practices that contribute to food waste and to identify opportunities to reduce food waste by increasing donations to charitable feeding agencies. This resolution has now passed the Senate Agriculture Committee and is now in the House Agriculture Committee.
  • SB249 is a bill that restructures and reorganizes Department of Oil and Gas administrative hearings. This bill has moved quickly through the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee and is anticipated to be in the corresponding House committee shortly.

(If you wish to act on any of these bills, call the message line at 1-800-372-7181. Also check our Alerts page.)

 

KCC “Oppose” Bills and Resolutions On the Move:

  • HB22, a bill affecting drones, prohibits the use of drones and evidence gathered by drones except for law enforcement purposes. This would challenge citizen monitoring of environmental hazards. This bill has now gone through the House and Senate and the House has now concurred with the Senate’s committee substitute, passing unanimously. This means the bill is almost ready to go to the Governor’s Desk. Please contact House and Senate leadership and ask them to hold his bill.
  • HB324 is similar in impacting citizen monitoring, in that it establishes a criminal offense of trespass upon key infrastructure assets such as electric power plants, pipelines, refineries, research facilities, and water treatment facilities. While we understand privacy concerns, we also are concerned that it may restrict citizen monitoring of environmental risk sites. This bill has also passed the House Judiciary committee and has now gone to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • HCR115 is a resolution that urges U.S. Congress to establish a moratorium on closing coal-fired electric plants and to eliminate subsidies for renewable energy sources except for battery storage. The resolution was passed in House Natural Resources and posted for passage last week, but due to floor amendments filed, it has not passed the full House. Call your representative and ask for them to vote “no” on this resolution.

(If you wish to act on any of these bills, call the message line at 1-800-372-7181. Also check our Alerts page.)

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Week Eight: Time to Focus

With time running out for bill requests (last day for the House is Feb. 27, last day for the Senate is March 1), we have seen a flurry of new bills filed. You can find the latest updates on House and Senate bills of interest on KCC’s website.

However, the time to act is becoming critical for two main bills we have been intensely focused on: HB227 (Anti-net metering bill, KCC Strong Oppose) and HB200 (budget bill with $5 million in funding “sweeps” for land conservation, KCC Strong Oppose).

There have now been 29 total amendments filed to HB227. However we have been telling people that with even the best of amendments, this bill is still a fundamentally flawed,  unnecessary piece of legislation that will adversely affect independent solar installers and future residential solar customers, and must be defeated. Many in the public, and many lawmakers, have stated that they find the bill to be an overreach by the utilities on a small, independent solar market. This bill is in the House and could be voted on at any time. We want to thank those of you who came out on Thursday for the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance Lobby Day and KCC’s Land Conservation Lobby Day. Each and every visit with legislators has been vital on these bills, and we have received multiple reports on a massive outreach campaign in support of the utilities on HB227, so we need you to keep reaching out to friends, family, and neighbors to make their calls against this bill. This bill is unnecessary because the present statutes already cap the use of net-metering at 1% of the market, and we are decades away from that kind of market penetration. See KCC’s Alert Page for this week’s actions on this bill, which we believe will kill the independent solar market. If you would like more background information about this bill, we have also posted several editorials and fact sheets at this link.

Similarly, we want to ask you all to also focus this week on HB200 (main budget bill). The budget bills have just now begun to move, with the first reading happening last week. We want to thank all of you who helped us to collect sign-ons from 45 organizations who are opposed to the $5 million in funding sweeps from the Heritage Land Conservation Fund which are in this bill. The letter was delivered last week to all lawmakers. See KCC’s Alert Page for this week’s actions on this bill, A copy of the text for the sign on letter delivered to all lawmakers can be found here.

We cannot express enough how much all of your calls and actions have made a difference. 

One last acknowledgement: Earlier this past year, just before the holiday season, I was trying to schedule multiple, and unavoidable, medical appointments for family members and for myself. Being that KCC is a small office (just myself as full time staff and the ever-reliable legislative support from Randy Strobo during the legislative season), I was dreading the prospects of going into this session with a backlog of detail work that would need to be postponed as we prepared for the session due to these unplanned interruptions. However with impeccable timing, I received an email from someone who attended our Wild & Scenic Film Festival, and offered to intern with us. Kerry Skiff has been an invaluable help these past few months during some of our most critical times, helping out with research work, our Legislative Summit, and last week’s multiple lobby days. Such talent has been recognized, and Kerry will be moving to Washington D.C. to work in the communications department of Defenders of Wildlife. We wish Kerry well and thank her for the generosity of her time and her “can do” attitude. We are very sorry to see her go, but are excited for the new opportunities she has in store. Kerry, thank you SO much!

—Lane Boldman