by 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.