One Door Closes, Another Wide Open- Week Three

As we start this week with a shutdown of the Federal Government, this emphasizes the duty and the opportunity to engage more directly with our State and Local Governments. So while the Federal “door” is temporarily closed, we are asking for folks to take some time this week to focus on the very important activities going on in the State Legislature.

Last week Governor Bevin released his Executive Budget, his vision for the Commonwealth, where over 70 programs have been proposed to be eliminated, including the Environmental Education Council, the State Tree Nursery program, and the Mesonet program which provides climate data in Kentucky.

And within the Governor’s budget is yet another attempt to “sweep” funding from the Heritage Land Conservation Fund. For those who have followed KCC’s activities, you will know that your efforts to fight these funding sweeps were partially successful during the last budget cycle. KCC and allies were able to cut the “sweep” in half, reducing it from $10 million over two years to $5 million. While we were unable to stop the entire sweep in the previous cycle, this restoration of $5 million dollars allowed the agency to complete important projects that were in the works.

This cycle, the Governor’s budget proposal is attempting to go after the $5 million we were able to protect. Now it is up to the House to take Bevin’s vision and turn into policy. KCC and allies are planning on challenging this sweep once again.

In addition to the budget activity, we saw several new significant bills filed this week, including bills to roll back local authority to regulate disposable containers (SB82)/KCC Strong Oppose. On the positive side, we also saw a re-filing of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act (HB196)/KCC Strong Support. Please check our “Alert List” on actions to take this week.

And while this has all been going on, we note that legislators are preparing for the next round of elections. Special elections are scheduled for February in House Districts 49 and 89. The special election to fill the vacancy in House District 49 will be held Feb. 20, 2018, while the special election for the seat expected to be vacant in House District 89 will be on Feb. 27, 2018. Write-in deadlines are still open. For details on elections, please visit the page of the Kentucky Secretary of State.

Finally, this past Saturday, KCC held its Annual Meeting and Legislative Summit, co-sponsored by Bellarmine University. Over 75 participants received a FULL day of informative seminars on legislative trends, a detailed review of current bills, summary of the budget, presentations on the state of Land Conservation and Energy, and an update on state connections to Federal legislation with Congressman John Yarmuth, who found a way to tele-connect with the KCC audience after unexpectedly being held in Washington DC due to the government shutdown the night before.

We want to thank all of the tremendous presenters, including Congressman Yarmuth, Randy Strobo, Tom Fitzgerald, Ashley Spalding, Kim Haddow, Dilini Lankachandra, Rick Bender, Karen Wilson, Kenya Stump, Hugh Archer and Don Dott. If you were unable to join us for the event, you can find all of the highly informative presentations and background materials from the Summit here!

One Last Note for this week: We anticipate this week will be the filing of legislation that will once again attack net metering laws. Watch for a dedicated action alert on this bill once it is filed. In the meantime, if you are interested in helping to lobby on these or any other issues, we are planning a series of lobby days, so please contact us!

Week Two: How To Take Action

These first few weeks of the General Assembly are a time to get situated. The House, in particular,  has had its challenges over the past few weeks in settling who will be the Speaker of the House. And several bills filed in the first week of the session have now been withdrawn, either because they were duplicative filings, or for other reasons.

So this is a good week for a refresher on the process on how a bill becomes a law in Kentucky. You can go to KCC’s webpage for a full rundown of the process.

And then during these early weeks in the session, this is a great time to build momentum on bills.  We ask that you act by doing the following:

  1. Review our latest updated list of the House and Senate bills we have reviewed, addressing topics within our mission. You will find several we have listed that also address fundamental democracy issues such as access to voting.
  2. Check to see if your legislator is a sponsor of any bills we have flagged as “support” or “strong support.” If you do not know who your legislator is, you can find out here.
  3. Regarding legislation you support: If your legislator is not currently a sponsor, please call their office, which you can reach through the central message line, and encourage them to sign on to your preferred legislation. If they HAVE sponsored your preferred legislation, please call and THANK them!
  4. Regarding legislation you oppose, contact members of the committees where the legislation currently resides,  and express your opposition. List of House standing committees here, List of Senate standing committees here. The status of where each bill currently resides is listed in the last column of KCC reviewed bills.

KCC Alerts: We have also added a new page to our website to make it easier for you to find which actions to take every week. We hope you will visit this page often and take action during the session.

This week we also wish to highlight that there are deadlines coming up for special elections for two House seats. If you reside in House districts 49 or 89, please note these deadlines and note our House information page on open (or soon to be open) seats.

And finally, the best way to get prepared is by coming to KCC’s Annual Meeting and Legislative Summit in Louisville this coming Saturday, January 20th, where you will have the opportunity to speak with legislative and issue experts directly on the issues you care about. Please register in advance so we can adequately plan for your attendance, and we look forward to seeing you there! If you do not wish to register online, just call our office at 502-209-9659 and let us know you are coming.

Opening Days…Long Nights Ahead

Opening Days…Long Nights Ahead

Having made it through the opening week of the 2018 General Assembly, KCC’s legislative agents and board have spent some long days and nights reviewing the first offerings of 2018 legislation. You can find our initial list of screened bills from the House and Senate, plus additional information about the session on the KCC website.

The session will be picking up speed between now and when the work is finished on April 13th. In the meantime, here is what is in store: Since this is an even-numbered year, the main focus for lawmakers will be on passing a budget to run state government.  Governor Bevin is anticipated on delivering his proposal on Jan. 16th. And then that is when it will be handed off to the House.

Lawmakers will have their hands full. The Governor has already stated that state retirement systems and the tax code are areas he would like to address during this session. When paired with other budget challenges, this presents a sizable chunk of work, even with a 60 day “long” session. The budget process is anticipated to run through the end of March.

So where does this leave the work that impacts conservation initiatives, the environment, and the health and safety of Kentucky’s citizens in the priorities? We shall see as this session evolves. However KCC’s legislative agents will be making sure these issues remain on lawmaker’s radar.

Issues we anticipate this session include the re-emergence of anti-independent solar legislation, and a continuation of cuts to important state departments that are in charge of protecting and enhancing our land, air and water. As we have been reviewing this year’s bills, you will see that KCC’s review team has added more reviews on legislation that affects our fundamental democracy, in addition to our primary bills affecting natural resources.

With this in mind, we hope you can join us for the KCC Annual Meeting and Legislative Summit on Saturday, January 20th at Bellarmine University. I am very excited about the lineup this year, starting with a Keynote from U.S. Congressman John Yarmuth, who will speak on the nexus between federal and state legislatures. We also have a power-lineup of speakers in specialized areas, including:

Register Here!  The event is FREE to students, and others are asked to donate a small fee to cover lunch.

And Finally, some important recognitions as we close out the week. We would like to take a moment to single out two resolutions that were filed this week. The first was HR36, which is a recognition honoring the top five energy efficient school districts in 2017. For many years now, the Kentucky Schools Board has done an amazing job in saving energy costs. ACT:  Please thank Representative Jim Gooch, who sponsored this resolution. It is important that the value of these programs get the attention they deserve. And while you are thanking Representative Gooch, you might mention that the next step is to make it easier to add solar to these schools.

The second resolution we want to highlight (and to end our post for the week), is HR25This resolution called for an adjournment of the House “in honor and loving memory of Judge Richard J. FitzGerald.” Judge FitzGerald devoted his entire career to advocating for the welfare of Kentucky’s abused and neglected children, and carried tremendous respect in and around Louisville and throughout the state. We wish to pay our respects to his lifetime of accomplishments and send our regards to his family.

The 2018 General Assembly Convenes

The 2018 General Assembly Convenes

Today marks the beginning of the 2018 General Assembly. As your constant presence in Frankfort, KCC has followed the legislature all during the 2017 Interim Session, in our ramp up to today’s session launch. While the focus this year will be primarily on the state budget and pension reform, we also anticipate another round of bills addressing distributed solar, and also land conservation funding. We will also be watching for proposed legislation that can impact electric and hybrid vehicles, taxes on natural resources, bike safety and more.

We also expect more proposed legislation that addresses issues of basic democracy. For example, one pre-filed bill from Rep. Wesley Morgan addresses conflicts between motorists and groups who protest in roadways. We may also see the return of legislation relating to Article V of the Constitution, which was a topic in the previous General Assembly. Two bills relating to this have already been pre-filed.

To see KCC’s current compiled list of pre-filed legislation for the 2018 session, click here.

KCC reviews legislation weekly and provided detailed analysis of bills as they are filed, plus actions you can take. We encourage you to invite friends to join our mail list to keep up with the latest developments on bills as they progress. If you are not already a subscriber to our mail list, you can subscribe here.

And please explore the new resources and information on our updated website, including expanded information on the Legislative Session, House and Senate elections, and how to contact your representatives. We also have expanded our calendar of important dates so that you can plan ahead for the session, as well as additional events from KCC and allies.

We want to encourage you to attend this year’s KCC Annual Meeting and Legislative Summit, to be held at Bellarmine University in Louisville on Saturday, January 20th. We will have a full day of sessions on what to expect during the legislative session, plus informative speakers who will update you on the latest issues. Register NOW for this event! (Registration FREE for students!).

And if you are part of a civic group who would like a presentation on what is happening this session, please contact us and we will be glad to present to organizations around the state.

We also anticipate lobby days this year on renewable energy and land conservation, so if you would like to be a part of those initiatives, please contact us and we will send you details as those plans develop.



Ramping Down, Winding Up

With just a couple more months left in the year, the Interim joint sessions have been primarily focused on topics such as pension reform. But one of the larger topics involving sustainability issues has been the conversation about Kentucky’s aging infrastructure. This summer, members of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Energy held one of their offsite meetings at Kentucky American Water Company in Lexington, where they were presented with examples of decaying water and sewer infrastructure. In addition, KCC has been attending the Division of Water’s “Lead in Drinking Water Workgroup” meetings over the summer where they are looking at how to proactively communicate with the public about water infrastructure relating to lead. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has released a comprehensive report on their proposed infrastructure improvements, and a new “Kentucky Infrastructure Coalition” has been looking at infrastructure relating to transportation. So watch for infrastructure issues to be a topic in the upcoming budget debate.


Kentucky Voices 2017: Note Last Minute Venue Change!

Last week, members should have received their invitation to our annual Kentucky Voices authors event, being held on Thursday evening, November 16th. KCC has hosted this event at the Old State Capitol in Frankfort for as long as we can remember, but just AFTER our mailing went out, we were informed that the Old Capitol was having some last-minute infrastructure issues of its own and repairs will not be complete in time for the event! Therefore, we have had to re-locate this year’s event to The Berry Hill Mansion in Frankfort. So please note this when you receive your KCC renewal letter.

But even while we are unable to have the Old Capitol for our event, we have a GREAT evening lined up, featuring Frederick Smock, Dobree, Adams, former Governor Steve Beshear, Trina Peiffer and Maurice Manning. So don’t miss it! The event is free for new or renewing members (membership $40) or if you are coming for the event only, we suggest a $20 donation. Purchase your tickets here!


Preparing for the 2018 Session

While the 2018 Legislative Session is still a few months away, there are already several bills that have been pre-filed, some of which are similar to bills we reviewed during the 2017 session. We have already seen the re-filing of last year’s bike safety bill, the electric vehicle fees bill, and several relating to utility billing. For the current list of pre-filed bills we are watching, click here.


Applause, Applause!

We want to acknowledge the winners from last week’s Governor’s Conference on Energy and the Environment’s Awards Luncheon. Most notably, the Outstanding Forest Steward award, which went to Jerry and Portia Brown. Portia is on the board of the Kentucky Woodland Owner’s Association, which is a KCC Partner Group. The Browns have been involved in a range of stewardship activities on their properties including the maintenance of 56 species of wildflowers, and invasive species control. Other awardees included L’Oreal USA for their global commitment to sustainable growth (including a new 4,000 panel solar array in Kentucky), and Maker’s Mark Distillery for their wildlife habitat work, just to name a few.

We also want to acknowledge our KCC Partner The Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, who was recently in the news for their efforts to successfully purchase another 2,000 acres of scenic eastern Kentucky land.

In other KCC Partner Group news, we wish to acknowledge the recent work of Scenic Kentucky in their efforts to address excessive billboard blight in Louisville.

Finally, congrats to the Kentucky Solar Energy Society, who hosted several successful Solar Tours over the past month. We hope you had an opportunity to visit one of many sites throughout the state and learn about how it has become far more cost competitive to have homes powered by the sun. KCC is continuing to partner with solar enthusiasts to help promote solar-friendly policies and expand net metering laws.


Other News of Note

KCC wishes to acknowledge the invaluable help of our current intern Kerry Skiff over the past month. Kerry earned her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Northern Kentucky University in 2016, and seeks to use her media skills to engage the public in environmental issues. Kerry says she is thrilled to work with KCC and hopes to encourage other young Kentuckians to get involved.

We also recently had a visit from delegates from Mongolia wanting to learn about Kentucky’s laws and policies relating to air quality, courtesy of the World Affairs Council of Kentucky. Mongolia is a coal-dependent region, and we spent time with the delegation discussing the mutual challenges related to air pollution and economic transition.


Save the Date! KCC Annual Meeting and Legislative Summit

KCC is still confirming details, but we would like for you to save the date of January 20th as our tentative date for this year’s Legislative Summit in Louisville. Watch for further developments!




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


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 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:

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.

(“Clean Power Plan to Lower Electricity Bills in Kentucky, Public Citizen, June 23, 2015, )

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

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.