“WHAT HATH THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY WROUGHT?”

Kentucky Capitolby Ruth Bamberger, Legislative Committee Chair
Sierra Club, Cumberland Chapter

In two words “Not Much.”  If nice guys finish last, the Sierra Club and other like Kentucky organizations have to be the nicest guys around!  But looking at it another way, “Not Much” means at least “A Little” on two of our priorities.

The Bluegrass Pipeline bill limiting the right of Eminent Domain to the Pipeline developers merited two hearings in the House Judiciary Committee;  the hearing room was packed both times by people impacted by the project as well as labor and industry supporters.  The House overwhelmingly voted to exclude pipeline companies transporting Natural Gas Liquids  (NGLs) as eligible to exercise Eminent Domain.  This bill would have prohibited Bluegrass Pipeline Partners from any exercise of Eminent Domain in negotiating with property owners.  The Senate, however, killed the bill on a procedural vote.

The good news is that BPP announced after the House Committee vote that it was delaying the Pipeline for a year, allegedly because of declining profits and other capital expenditures.  But one could also surmise that the delay was caused by the strong opposition to the Pipeline by the hundreds of people, including our members, who contacted their legislators.  Likewise, a lawsuit filed in Franklin County Court challenging BPP’s use of Eminent Domain was recently won by Pipeline opponents, though it will no doubt be appealed.

The “A Little” in the Clean Energy bill was the response of the House Tourism and Energy Committee Chair Keith Hall,  who represents a district in the heart of coal country, Pike County.  Representative Hall met with supporters following the hearing, urging us to continue our efforts in moving this bill forward, primarily because of its potential for jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. Three thousand more coal jobs have been lost in the past three years in Eastern KY, and the region is desperate for new industry.  In fact, the entire hearing focused more on jobs than anything else, but this may be the handle to accomplish our goal of moving “Beyond Coal.”

This legislative session was frustrating, to say the least.  The General Assembly continues to cut the budget in human services and environmental protection.  It will no doubt continue on this trajectory until desperately needed restructuring of the state tax system takes place.

The Blue Ribbon Tax Commission plan and the KY Forward HB220 bill calling for fair and equitable revenue increases remain in limbo.  Next year may see better results with the biennial budget out of the way.  In the meantime. the Sierra Club and our allies will continue to peck away at our priorities.

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CUMBERLAND CHAPTER Sierra Club Legislative Update

Bills currently being tracked by the Kentucky Sierra Club in the General Assembly:

1. Bluegrass Pipeline- Eminent Domain SB14
limits eminent domain to utilities regulated by the Public Service Commission. This bill would prohibit Bluegrass Pipeline Partners from using eminent domain over property owners who refuse to grant easements to the company for a natural gas liquids pipeline.

2. COMPREHENSIVE CLEAN ENERGY OPPORTUNITY BILL HB195
calls for utilities to generate a certain % of electricity from renewable resources—done in increments until 12.5% is achieved by 2024; utilities are also required to invest a % of their resources in energy efficiency projects such as insulation for low income households; a feed-in tariff for small and large scale clean energy producers to sell electricity to utilities would be designed to increase use of clean energy sources. Check out the KY Sustainable Energy Alliance web site for excellent background information. http://www.kysea.org

3. SAFE COAL ASH DISPOSAL HB241
requires coal ash disposal ponds to have liners, groundwater and toxic substance monitoring. (EPA is also developing regulations on coal ash disposal to be issued later this year.)

4. STREAM SAVER BILL HB288
prohibits dumping of toxic mine wastes into intermittent, perennial, and ephemeral streams in the state.

5. NUCLEAR ENERGY PLANTS HB52/SB67
would remove a de facto ban on nuclear power facilities by providing ONLY a safe means for storage of nuclear waste rather than a plan for permanent disposal of wastes. (Sierra Club opposes this bill.)

6. KENTUCKY CONSERVATION TAX CREDIT PROGRAM (does not yet have a bill number)
would create a state income tax credit for landowners who make permanent gift of land or restrict the use of their land for public benefit.

The full text of bills is available on the Legislative Research Commission web site: http://www.lrc.ky.org

Posted in Air, Coal, Efficiency, Energy, InTheNews, Legislation, Mining, Natural Gas, Nuclear, Public Lands, Renewable Energy, Water | Leave a comment

Healthy Foods Local Farms Event

Healthy Foods Local Farms ConferenceRegister Now!

Key Note:
   * BARTON SEAVER,
        Harvard School of Public Health

Other Speakers:
   * WENONAH HAUTER
          Food & Water Watch
   * DR. MICHELE MOREK, UNANIMA;
          an NGO at the United Nation
Scholarships:  get info

Posted in Agriculture, Air, CAFOs, Energy, Events, Health, Healthy Foods, InTheNews, Local Farms, Water | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

NEWS: Federal Court Orders EPA to Move Ahead on Coal Ash Regs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2013

Contact:
Jennifer Duggan, Environmental Integrity Project (802) 225-6774
Jared Saylor, Earthjustice (202) 236-5855
Sean Sarah, Sierra Club (202) 548-4589

Federal Court Orders EPA to Move Forward on Coal Ash Regulations
Judge to offer more details in the next 30 days but takes first step towards federal enforceable safeguards

Washington, D.C. – A federal judge agreed with environmental and public health groups that the Environmental Protection Agency needs to set federal
regulations for the safe and proper disposal of toxic coal ash. A copy of the judge’s order can be found here.

Cane Run Coal Ash Facility, Louisville, KY

The groups filed the lawsuit in April 2012 challenging the EPA’s lack of federal regulations for America’s second largest industrial waste stream.

The order of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia offered little details about the timing or substance of the EPA’s rulemaking but said it will issue a Memorandum Opinion within the next 30 days with more specifics.

For now, the decision marks the first step towards federally enforceable safeguards, monitoring, and protections against coal ash. In its order, the court did deny one of the environmentalists claims regarding testing procedures for coal ash contamination, but more details are needed before the groups are fully able to understand the implications.

Coal ash has already contaminated more than 200 rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers with toxic pollutants like arsenic, lead, selenium and mercury. In 2008, a spill at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tennessee, dumped one billion gallons of coal ash over 300 acres, destroying homes and poisoning rivers. That spill led to the EPA proposing in May 2010 the first federal regulations for coal ash disposal. The agency never finalized that rulemaking, leaving open the opportunity for the power generating industry and some members of Congress to push for legislation that would prevent the EPA from ever setting federal regulations.

The following statement is from the groups that filed the lawsuit: Appalachian Voices (NC); Chesapeake Climate Action Network (MD); Environmental Integrity Project (DC); Earthjustice (DC); French Broad Riverkeeper (NC); Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KY); Moapa Band of Paiutes (NV); Montana Environmental Information Center (MT); Prairie Rivers Network (IL); Sierra Club (DC); and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (eight southeast states):

“The impacts of coal ash pollution are being felt across the country. Our groups represent millions of Americans who want clean water, clean air and healthy living. We turned to the courts to force the EPA to set long overdue protections from this toxic menace. This decision marks the first step towards federally enforceable safeguards from coal ash. For decades, coal ash has been dumped into unlined and un-monitored pits, poisoning water supplies and the communities that rely on them. No one should have to live in fear of the coal ash dump in their backyard, and we hope the EPA will finally adopt regulations that protect all nearby communities.”

For information about coal ash in North Carolina, Maryland, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, Illinois, Tennessee or other southern states, as well as the implications this decision will have locally, please contact the following representatives

Sandra Diaz
, Appalachian Voices, (828) 262-1500; (North Carolina)
Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, (703) 772-2472;  (Maryland)
Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper, (828) 258-8737;  (North Carolina)
Mary Love, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, (502) 541-7434;  (Kentucky)
William Anderson, Moapa Band of Paiutes (702) 865-2787;  (Nevada)
Anne Hedges, Montana Environmental Information Center, (406) 443-2520;  (Montana)
Traci Barkley, Prairie Rivers Network, (217) 621-3013;  (Illinois)
Ulla Reeves, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, (828) 713-7486; (Southeast)

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Posted in Air, Coal, Energy, Health, InTheNews, Mining, Mountain Top Removal, Surface Mining | Tagged , , | Leave a comment