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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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General Assembly Week Nine: A Critical Time

This past week, we reached the deadlines for filing new House and Senate bills, which resulted in a burst of last-minute of filing activity. We are now with about six weeks left in the session, and only three weeks left till we reach the veto period. But there is still enough time for new filings to move.

During this time, we can also expect to see some consolidation of bills, which means that every bill substitution needs to be watched closely. To date, KCC has now reviewed over 800 House 500 Senate bills and resolutions. Of those reviewed, we have listed about 95 House and 33 Senate bills and resolutions with a conservation impact.

 

Activity for the Week:

The primary house budget bill (HB200) (KCC Strong Oppose) moved with a bill substitute this past week, and while we were glad to see the restoration of some funds, such as funding for the Mesonet program of the Kentucky Climate Center), we were very disappointed to see that the $5 million in “sweeps” from the Heritage Land Conservation Fund, Kentucky’s only funding for land conservation, remained in the substitute. The bill was voted on and approved immediately after the substitute was revealed. Now the fight moves on to the Senate. See our alert page for actions to take on this bill.

Another bill that moved this week was HB22 (KCC Oppose) a bill that prohibits the use of drones and evidence gathered by drones except for law enforcement purposes. This would challenge citizen monitoring of environmental hazards. That bill is now making its way to the Senate.

The bike safety bill HB33 (KCC Support) was heard in the Senate Transportation committee where lawmakers continued to raise questions on balancing the consideration between bikes and cars on our roadways. See this article from “Bike Walk North Carolina” on bike safety benefits.

 

Expect the Anti-Net Metering bill to move:

We expect HB227 (Anti-solar net metering bill, KCC Strong Oppose) to move this week where we expect to see new committee substitute. The bill presently resides in the House Natural Resources committee but is expected to move to the full House shortly. See this article on how citizens in Eastern Kentucky are asking for more solar jobs, and please see our alert page for actions to take on this bill.

 

Notable new bills this week:

For new bills, we saw the filing of HB609 (KCC Oppose), a comprehensive transportation funding bill that includes language from the previously filed HB45 that establishes a flat fee for electric, plug-in electric, and hybrid vehicles. While we agree alternatives to the gas tax must be explored to raise revenue for road infrastructure, we disagree with the flat fee approach and find the charges to be arbitrary. Though the bill was only filed last week, it already has fourteen sponsors, so please see our alert page for actions to take.

We also want to draw your attention to HB515, which provides alternative concurrent venue and jurisdiction when appealing the decisions of state agencies and the changing of venue from Franklin Circuit Court to the Circuit Courts of the counties in which events underlying the enforcement actions occurred.

 

Thanks for your support! Come Join us for a special evening on March 16!

We appreciate ALL of the kinds words and support from KCC members and friends since the session started. The early and persistent activity around two key pieces of legislation (land conservation and solar) have certainly challenged our capacity since the beginning of the session, and we appreciate your donations and support. We hope you will consider joining us at 7pm for a very special performance of “Sisters of the Mother Forest” (the story of Lucy and Annette Braun) on March 16th, 7pm in Louisville. The presentation will be to benefit the Kentucky Conservation Committee. Our thanks to KCC board member and play author Alice Jones for offering this special performance. Reserve your seats here (and you can also donate to support our work).

 

 

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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 

Week Seven: Taking Stock at the Halfway Point

This week marks the halfway point of the 60-day session. To date, KCC has now reviewed 536 bills and 377 Resolutions, of which we have listed and ranked over 90 of these for their environmental or social consequences. (See our latest rankings of House and Senate bills).

Each week, KCC legislative agents and board members convene to go over every piece of legislation, and those which receive a “strong support” or “strong oppose” rating are given special direct attention throughout the session. We send copies of our rankings and analysis to lawmakers on a regular basis throughout the session.

While bills such as the anti-homegrown solar bill HB227 (KCC Strong Oppose) finally moved to the House after 22 amendments and after dominating the news, there are several other pieces of legislation that are also receiving our highest attention.

We are still challenging several of the budget cuts and funding sweeps in the primary budget bill HB200 (KCC Strong Oppose). The bill was sent to the House this past week for its first reading but then returned to the House Appropriations & Revenue committee to continue its work.

We are also working on slowing the momentum on HB10 (KCC Strong Oppose) which would amend the Kentucky Constitution and permit the General Assembly or its committees to review and approve or disapprove regulations of the Executive Branch during the General Assembly. This bill has passed the House and was received in the Senate on February 9th. It now resides in the Senate State & Local Government Committee.

Fortunately, not all bad bills are on the move. The horrible “auxiliary container” bill  SB82 (KCC Strong Oppose) fortunately seems to be stalled in the Senate State & Local Government committee.  This bill would prevent local governments from setting their own ordinances on these containers, which are defined as “a bag, cup, bottle, or other packaging, whether reusable or single-use, that is designed for transporting, consuming, or protecting merchandise, food, or beverages from or at a food service or retail facility.”

And we also have several GOOD bills and resolutions that still need additional co-sponsors and support. Those include HCR18 (Mileage-Based Transportation Task Force), HR148 which urges the Governor to declare a state of emergency in Martin County over their water crisis, HR154 urging passage of the RECLAIM act, and HB196 the Clean Energy Opportunity Act.

We hope to see you in Frankfort this week! Join us this Thursday, February 22, where we will be supporting groups who are coming to town to lobby for clean energy and land conservation. For more information on how you can join us, just call us at 502-209-9659.

 

 

 

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Week Six: Citizen Power Alive and Well in Frankfort

Latest Legislative Alerts for the week of 2/12 here

Latest House and Senate bills

Over the past several weeks, citizens who have never lobbied before have been calling the office daily to ask what they can do, and asking if we help them to lobby their representatives. KCC is on-site during the full session to help any and all citizens who want to lobby. If you are passionate about any of the bills on our House and Senate lists, and will be in Frankfort, please call us at 502-209-9659 and we will be glad to assist or accompany you on a visit to your representatives!  In-person constituent visits are the most effective way to deliver a message to your legislator!

More tips on engaging your lawmakers here!

Finally, we hope you will consider coming to Frankfort for one of several different upcoming clean energy lobby days. Sign up here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Developments for the week: The hard-fought battle to stop HB227, a bill which would fundamentally change net metering laws, has now moved on to the full House after Chairman Gooch added three new members to his Natural Resources & Energy Committee. Our thanks to all of the citizens who came up to Frankfort on very short notice for all of the committee actions! While dozens signed up to speak at the hearing, the chairman called the vote without allowing citizen testimony. We are asking for the House Leadership to “recommit the bill” for additional work. There have been many misconceptions about this bill which are being spread by utility supporters, so we appreciate this week’s article in the Herald-Leader which explains the misconceptions.

We also want to thank Solar Kentucky for this video, where KCC’s legislative agent Randy Strobo explains the legislative history of the fight to protect solar in Kentucky.

We also are organizing efforts on February 22 to also lobby for land conservation funding. Please email us if you are interested in coming to Frankfort on Feb. 22 to lobby for land conservation! Sign on Letter in Support of Land Conservation Funding:
Downloadable Letter HERE, Sign on Form HERE

Finally, we want to highlight one “feel good” item of the week, the filing of Senate Resolution 157, which recognizes the 50th anniversary of the original protest hike in the fight to save the Red River Gorge. We want to leave you with this reminder that effective citizen action, no matter the odds, can, and has, resulted in monumental changes for all Kentuckians.

Latest Legislative Alerts for the week of 2/12 here

 

 

Week Five: More Twists and Turns

What a week of twists and turns! As you recall from the previous week’s posting of the KCC Guardian, that week had begun with the filing of the anti-net-metering bill HB227, with the anticipation that the bill would immediately be heard with the first meeting of the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee later that week. But due to effective lobbying by citizens working with KCC and allies, that meeting was cancelled.

So going into this past week, we expected for the bill to be heard at the committee’s regularly scheduled Thursday meeting. Citizens were once again planning to fill the meeting room to defend rooftop solar. However in a surprise move, with only 24 hour’s notice, Chairman Gooch moved the meeting up by one day, to be heard on adjournment of the session Wednesday. Fortunately KCC was able to quickly send out alerts of the change, and citizens were able to re-group and fill the room. You can find the full video of the hearing here, where you will see that due to pressure from well-informed citizens, Chairman Gooch once again declined to call a vote on the bill.  We would like for you to thank Rep. Tim Couch, who asked thoughtful questions on the merits of the legislation during this surprise hearing.

But this surprise hearing was not the only surprise of the week. Once it was clear that the Chairman lacked the votes to pass his own bill out of committee, House Leadership was approached with a request to add three more committee members to Gooch’s team on Friday. (Read more details on KCC’s Clean Energy page). So look for another attempt at a vote this week.

With so much attention to this bill, we don’t want to overlook that KCC is still continuing its work on land conservation funding in its opposition to HB200, the main budget bill. But we need your help! Please circulate this sign-on letter to all organizations who support land conservation and oppose the funding sweeps in HB200.

We also want to make sure you will plan on attending one of several Clean Energy Lobby Days, including one planned for Feb. 22 by the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance in support of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act (HB196).

Week Four: Picking Up Speed

With the General Assembly not even through its first month, we have already seen several bills attempting to make their early mark. KCC and their allies have been working hard to slow the momentum of these significant bills. This week, our efforts have been focused on HB227 (Strong Oppose), which would re-defined the state’s net metering laws and compensation to citizens who have grid-tied solar arrays on their homes. Paired with the recent tariff on imported solar panels, this legislation would cripple independent solar installer businesses. This bill was filed late on Monday, Jan. 22 and KCC was watching, immediately alerting members and allies to flood the switchboard with calls. We have also been accompanying citizens to the Capitol Annex all last week to meet with members of the House Natural Resources Committee. Expectations were for the bill to be heard during the Committee’s meeting last week, however due in large part to your calls and effective lobbying efforts, it has not yet been called for its first hearing. The next scheduled meeting is this Thursday, February 1, so please keep those calls coming! (See Actions to take HERE).

We also have been reacting to the filing of the House Budget Bill, HB200 (Strong Oppose). While the bill reflects a continuation of budget reductions all around, including important departments such as enforcement, we wish to highlight specific areas of concern to our members, including the elimination of the state tree nurseries, the Environmental Education Council and the Mesonet program that is part of the Kentucky Climate Center.

In addition, followers of KCC may recall that during the previous budget cycle, we were able to restore $5 million from a proposed $10M “sweep” from the Heritage Land Conservation Fund. When KCC members and allies in the Conserve Kentucky coalition prevented a full sweep, this allowed KHLCF to complete important projects in progress. For this budget year, however, the House is once again proposing to “sweep” the funds we were able to protect ($2.5M each year, $5M total). This is the state’s only funding for land conservation, so we are once again asking for organizations to sign on to a joint letter opposing the sweeps. Please see KCC’s ALERTS for details, where you will also find a handy list of nature preserves located in your legislator’s district. And in the meantime, contact your representative and members of the House Appropriations & Revenue Committee and tell them you oppose the budget sweep of the Heritage Land Conservation Fund.

We also want to draw your attention to the following: Two weeks ago, the Senate filed two bills of great concern, SB2 (Strong Oppose) that would amend the Ky. Constitution to limit damages from injury and environmental harm, and SB82 (Strong Oppose) that prohibits local ordinances to regulate the use, prohibition or taxes on disposable containers. Both of these bills are currently in the Senate State & Local Government Committee.

This week we also saw the re-filing of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, HB196 (Strong Support), a bill that KCC and our allies in the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance have been supporting for several years. See details in our House bill list and please encourage co-sponsors.

Finally, if you are interested in lobbying in person, please note that KCC is working alongside allies to promote several upcoming lobby days from Ky. Student Environmental Coalition (Feb. 12), Ky. Interfaith/Ky. Council of Churches (Feb. 13), Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (Feb. 22), and KCC on March 14. Please go to our home page at www.kyconservation.org to sign up for any or all of these events. KCC will also accompany any citizen on an individual basis that would like lobbying support. Just call us at 502-209-9659.