Weather and Short Session Challenge 2015 Kentucky General Assemblyby Ruth Bamberger, Legislative Committee Chair
Cumberland Chapter, Sierra Club
This year should go down as one of the most unproductive sessions of the KY General Assembly, and nature ironically had a lot to do with it. After a very successful Clean Energy Lobby Day in February with strong participation by Sierra Club volunteers, the highly publicized House hearing on the Clean Energy Bill was cancelled because of snow. The KY Sustainable Energy Alliance had arranged for Kacey Hoover of North Carolina Sustainable Energy Action to testify at the hearing, only to learn that her flight to Louisville had been cancelled as well.
Even though most of the bills we supported did not go very far, there were a few victories for the Energy/Environment agenda. The biggest was HB100 which allows local governments to establish Energy Project Assessment District (EPAD) programs for property owners who want to make energy efficiency improvements in their buildings. Under this program, a local government offers bonds to investors and the money raised is loaned to consumers and businesses to make energy retrofits and install renewable energy in their structures. The loans are repaid over a number of years through an annual assessment on the owner’s property tax bill. We anticipate that Governor Beshear will sign the bill.
Fracking has now become a reality in the state, as the Division of Oil and Gas Resources held a hearing in late February on a permit requested by Horizontal Technology Energy Company of Pennsylvania for a deep well drilling in Johnson County. In anticipation of an increase in horizontal drilling, SB186, known as the KY Oil and Gas Modernization Act, was passed and sent to the Governor for his signature. This legislation provides protections for landowners by requiring water well testing and identification of chemicals used in fracking. An attempt was made during the Senate hearing to place a two year moratorium on fracking in the state, but the effort failed. The Sierra Club opposes horizontal hydrofracking, but this legislation does offer some protections to landowners.
Other bills supported by the Sierra Club had no hearings this session, including HB523, the Tax Credit for Land Conservation, and HB372, which provides setbacks for residential property lines in proximity to landfill deposits such as coal ash. SB90, which would terminate the requirement for a permanent storage site for nuclear waste from nuclear power plants, passed the Senate this year, but the House took no action. The Sierra Club remained strongly opposed to this bill.
Those who follow the legislative process are always ready for the unpredictable and crazy things that can happen to bills. The Sierra Club supported HB93, establishing protections for endangered plant species, only to see it morph into a horse racing bill! HB131, the Stream Saver Bill, prohibiting dumping of mountaintop waste into valleys and streams, wound up with an amendment to delete all sections of the bill and require the EPA to appear before the US Congress!
The General Assembly sets up Interim Committees while not is session and we will be monitoring the work of these committees as they pertain to the Sierra Club agenda.
The sixty day session next year will generate more opportunities to move our priorities along.