by Ruth Bamberger, Legislative Committee Chair
Cumberland Chapter, Sierra Club
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:
- require utilities to create a portfolio of energy sources that include renewables like wind and solar;
- 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:
- 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;
- 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.)
- 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:
- allow plants to be built without a plan for permanent storage of nuclear waste;
- 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.
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: