Legislative Actions: Environment, Energy on Our Agenda

by Ruth Bamberger, Legislative Committee Chair
Cumberland Chapter, Sierra Club

Kentucky Capitol

Kentucky Capitol, Frankfort
photo by: Chuck Summers

The Kentucky General Assembly officially opened January 6th with the swearing in of all 100 Representatives and 37 Senators. The Democrats have a 54-46 edge in the House and the Senate is controlled by the Republicans 23-14 with one vacant seat.

This year will be a short session of 30 days, but with no budget bills pending, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups in the state anticipate their agendas will gain greater visibility.

The Clean Energy Opportunity Bill remains a top priority. This bill had a full hearing in the House Energy and Tourism Committee in 2014 with particular attention given to the number of jobs that could be created in the state if the bill became law. Thirty states already have such legislation that would:

  1. require utilities to create a portfolio of energy sources that include renewables like wind and solar;
  2. create energy efficiency projects for customers and improve efficiency in power plant operations.

North Carolina has such a law and a recent study commissioned by the NC Sustainable Energy Association concluded that 17,000 new jobs had been created over a six year period. This bill will be reintroduced in the House and could go into the House Economic Development Committee because of its potential for job creation.

The Sierra Club will likely be supporting a bill to be introduced to create a tax credit for conservation easements. A similar bill was voted on unanimously in the House Appropriations Committee in 2014 but died at the end of the session.

Bills introduced at this time earning the Club’s support include:

  1. Creation of energy property assessment districts providing a loan fund for energy efficiency improvements with the cost to be paid back in the yearly property tax assessment;
  2. Exclusion of natural gas liquids from the definition of oil or gas used in the state’s Eminent Domain statute (this bill attempts to clarify the application of Eminent Domain which arose in the Bluegrass Pipeline controversy.)
  3. Establishment of a plant Endangered Species list to be maintained by the KY State Nature Preserves Commission.

Every year bills are introduced to weaken the state’s moratorium on construction of nuclear power plants. Two such bills prefiled would:

  1. allow plants to be built without a plan for permanent storage of nuclear waste;
  2. exempt the nuclear power moratorium on construction of a power plant on a site that manufactured nuclear materials.

The Sierra Club opposes these bills.

The national Sierra Club has long been committed to Campaign Finance Reform and Voting Systems, as they play a major role in the outcomes of the organization’s agenda. This year, Rep. Jim Wayne has introduced a bill in the House that would create a public financing system for state judicial campaigns.

This bill falls within the organization’s support for public financing of major offices. The Cumberland Chapter has never adopted a position on the Voting Rights Restoration Bill for ex-felons which has been before the General Assembly for many years, but one could assume that our members would be supportive of such a bill to give the thousands of ex-felons in the state the right to vote after they have served their sentences.

To check on the status of bills, check out the KY Legislative Research Commission web site at www.lrc.ky.gov.

We are looking for volunteers to lobby in Frankfort on February 5th for the Clean Energy Bill and February 12th to stop Mountaintop Strip Mining of coal. If you can be in Frankfort on either or both of those days, please contact:

Ruth Bamberger, KY Sierra Club Legislative Chair:

Posted in Coal, Efficiency, Endangered Species, Energy, InTheNews, Legislation, Mining, Mountain Top Removal, Natural Gas, Nuclear, Politics, Renewable Energy, Surface Mining | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Google Dumps ALEC

Huge news!

Google is dumping the Koch-fueled American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an extremist group that pushes legislation like forcing public schools to teach climate denial.

The announcement comes on the heels of the People’s Climate March where more than 400,000 people hit the streets of New York City for a clean energy future and after you helped send 100,000 messages to Google asking them to stop funding ALEC. It’s clear our work is paying off.

But we can’t stop now! eBay is still funding these climate deniers. Tell them to join Google and the 50 other corporations that have quit ALEC.

America’s technological innovators have sent a message loud and clear: groups that promote a climate denying agenda have no place in the 21st century.

Just the other day, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show that “The people who oppose [climate change] are really hurting our children and grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying.

BOOM!

Google, Yahoo, Yelp, Facebook, and Microsoft have all stopped funding ALEC. Tell eBay it’s time to join the exodus. Help us send 30,000 messages to John Donahoe, eBay’s CEO, today.

Thanks for all you do to protect the environment. Together we are showing ALEC and the Koch brothers that America won’t stand for its climate denying agenda any longer!

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, InTheNews, Legislation, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

KY Sierra Club Water Committee Meeting – JOIN US!

Shillalah Creek in Bell Co., KY: by Chuck Summers

Shillalah Creek in Bell Co., KY: by Chuck Summers

PLEASE JOIN US …
this Saturday, August 9th, in the Community Room at the Midway Branch Library, Northside Drive (on the road to the Northside Elementary School) for an important meeting on water issues in Kentucky, and how we can work towards getting more of the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) included under the protections of the Clean Water Act.

TOPIC:                 WOTUS (Waters Of The US – in Kentucky)
TIME:                   August 9, 2014 from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon
LOCATION:       Midway Branch – Woodford County Public Library (Map)

Midway Branch
400 Northside Dr.
Midway, KY 40347
Phone: (859) 846-4014

QUESTIONS:        Hank Graddy, 859-229-4033, water@kentucky.sierraclub.org

SUMMARY OF PREVIOUS MEETING:  At our previous meeting on June 28, 2014 we introduced and explained the need for the EPA proposed regulation to bring more clarity to the meaning of  “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) as that term is used in the Clean Water Act.  We also focused on the Interpretive Rule that exempts certain USDA NRCS Conservation Practices from Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting.  We developed a plan of action and schedule.

IMPORTANT DATES & SUPPLEMENTAL INFO:

  1. August 9, 2014:  Our next meeting is this Saturday, August 9th!
  2. October 4, 2014:  We are also planning to have a Water Committee meeting in conjunction with our Cumberland Chapter ExCom Meeting on October 4th – see our Cumberland Chapter Activities Calendar for more info.
  3. TBD:  When Congress takes up the appropriations bills, there are legislative threats to the proposed WOTUS regulation.
  4. The materials we will be reviewing can be found at the US EPA web site at:  http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters
  5. Letter (June 2014) from Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune to EPA Admin Gine McCarthy regarding WOTUS and the Interpretive Rule
  6. Cumberland Chapter comments (July 7, 2014) to US EPA re the Interpretive Rule

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE, Saturday, August 9, 2014:

9:00 – 10:00 AM:  Overview of the proposed regulation, why it is needed, and what it does and does not do.  This will repeat some of what we discussed on June 28, so everyone is caught up.

10:00 to 11:00:  Detailed review of the areas of attack from Farm Bureau and others, and a more detailed review of what the regulation will mean in Kentucky.

11:00 to 12:00:   Strategy in Kentucky:  What will we accomplish by October 20, 2014

12:00 to 1:00:    Lunch – TBD

1:00 – 4:00  THE WATERSHED WATCH IN KENTUCKY will hold their board meeting at this location until 4:00.  Sierra Club members are welcome to stay.

BACKGROUND

On April 21, 2014,  US EPA published a proposed rule to try to bring more certainty and guidance to the determination of what was and was not within the meaning of the term “Waters of The US”  (WOTUS).

You can find the proposed regulation, and helpful explanations, at:

  1. Kentucky Waterways Alliance – kwalliance.org/wotus -
  2. NRDC – http://www.nrdc.org/water/assaultonwater.asp
  3. US EPA –  http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm
  4. American Rivers – https://www.americanrivers.org/blog/spotlight-prairie-potholes/
  5. National Wildlife Federation: http://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Protect-Habitat/Waters/Clean-Water-Act.aspx

NOTE CAREFULLY:  EPA is NOT trying to define that term – WOTUS – as it was defined and implemented before SWANNC and RAPANOS – two Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.  EPA is trying to implement the instructions from the Supreme Court.  Many of us want Congress to strengthen the Clean Water Act by getting rid of the word “navigable” and by making it clear that all waters are “Water Of The US” getting Clean Water Act protection.  But until Congress acts, the EPA is bound by the language in the current CWA as interpreted by the Supreme Court.  The proposed regulation is consistent with both Supreme Court opinions.

Posted in InTheNews, Legislation, Politics, Water | 1 Comment

KENTUCKY “NATURE’S FINEST” LICENSE HOLDERS REBUFFED BY GENERAL ASSEMBLY

by Ruth Bamberger, Legislative Committee Chair
Sierra Club, Cumberland Chapter

KyNatureLicensePlates

Kentucky residents who purchase the special license plate “Nature’s Finest”  to help fund the state’s Heritage Land Conservation Fund should know that the 2014 General Assembly moved this earmarked fund into General Operating Revenues.  While this action was legal, it betrays those purchasing these license plates who thought the money would go for conservation projects to which they were committed.  The legislature, in their unwillingness to raise any additional revenue, has resorted to “budget games” that reflect little priority for environmental issues.

The Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund was set up to acquire areas possessing unique features for rare and endangered species, areas important for migratory birds, and areas to be protected in their natural state for public use, recreation, and education.  Funding for the KHLCF comes from sales of license plates (8%), an unmined minerals tax (50%), and environmental fines (42%).

Receipts from license sales over the past five years amounted to over $3 million.

The 2014 General Assembly reduced funding for the Heritage Fund by $5 million in 2015 and $3 million in 2016.  These cuts seriously undermine the resources needed to carry though the mission of the KHLFC.  The biennial budget is now cast in stone, but those license holders and other Fund supporters need to let their legislators know that moving the Fund into General Operating Revenues is unacceptable.  (find contact info for your legislators here)  Given the whirlwind of budget action in the closing days of the General Assembly, most legislators were probably not aware of the Land Conservation’s fate.  They need our voice!

Posted in InTheNews, Land Stewardship, Legislation, Public Lands, Wildlands, Wildlife | Leave a comment