HB 174 cs, which imposes a modest environmental impact fee of ½ of 1 cent on disposable cups and fast food packaging, and a $1 per ton tipping fee on municipal solid waste disposed at landfills, to fund the "Kentucky Pride Fund," will be heard on the House Floor on Monday. THE VOTE IS EXPECTED TO BE CLOSE, SINCE THE BEVERAGE INDUSTRY HAS GEARED UP THEIR LOBBY TO KILL THE BILL. The same lobby that opposes a modest returnable deposit on these one-way containers opposes a minor surcharge to hire people to clean up the litter, to educate children, and to fund roadside dump cleanup.
The bill is not as strong as either the sponsor or the Council would like. We continue to favor a "bottle bill." But with your help, and the support of the cities, counties, solid waste coordinators and others, we can break the beverage and retail lobbyists hegemony over the legislative process and raise targeted funds to improve the quality of our environment through:
* a loan program to local communities to close former landfills; * a grant program to local government to clean up illegal dumps; * funding of the environmental education master plan.
Is the bill a free ride for those counties that don't do an adequate job managing waste? No - to be eligible, counties must hire a solid waste coordinator, and implement and enforce their solid waste and anti-litter laws. If they fail to, under the bill the state may petition to assume responsibility for local solid waste programs if the community fails to achieve and maintain 85% participation in proper disposal of wastes by mid-2007. Additionally, authority to collect delinquent waste fees with property taxes is provided.
AND NOW THE BAD NEWS:
HB 496 is an open invitation to pollute the land, air and water of the state. Introduced by House Natural Resources & Environment Committee Chair Jim Gooch, the bill would force the Natural Resources Cabinet to give a 45 day notice to a company found to be violating air, waste and water pollution laws, before it can issue a notice of violation and impose penalties or order correction of the violation.
Only where there was an "imminent and substantial danger to human health or the environment" could the Cabinet act immediately - otherwise the agency would have to sit idly by while the polluter had an additional 44 days to pollute with impunity without suffering any legal consequences.
The bill is an open invitation to pollution, and would allow blatant, intentional violations of laws, regulations and permit conditions without consequence. Only where a situation degraded to the point of imminent harm would the Cabinet be allowed to act, and it is unclear whether even then the "order to abate" now allowed by law could be issued. The bill is perhaps one of the least responsible that has been filed on environmental issues in several years. The Council had hoped that this Commonwealth was past the point of believing that anyone had a right to pollute air, water and land resources without accountability. Help send the message that this frontal assault on environmental quality is unacceptable.
The bill will be heard on Tuesday in the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, whose members are James Gooch (the sponsor of the bill), Woody Allen, Phillip Childers, Keith Hall, Rocky Adkins, Ira Branham, Scott Brinkman, Hubert Collins, Howard Cornett, Don Pasley, Tanya Pullin, Marie Rader, Jim Stewart, Johnnie Turner, Robin Webb, Brent Yonts. Please send a fax to the LRC fax room, list each member on that fax, and ask them to oppose HB 496.
On Tuesday, the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee will also hear HB 408, which proposes to reallocate the nitrogen oxide allowances that will be required by law to be held by electric generating plants emitting NOx, away from the 95-5% existing-new plant split proposed by the state, giving more allowances to new coal-burning and merchant power plants. The effect of this bill will be to give and sell these allowances to merchant plants not serving Kentucky customers, with the effect that existing electric generating utilities that serve Kentucky's customers will be required to obtain additional NOx allowances in order to operate, raising Kentucky ratepayers costs, and causing an overall increase in particulate, mercury, sulfur oxides, CO2 and other pollutants.
The Council does not support the reallocation of additional NOx credits to new so-called "clean coal" plants and to new merchant power plants, because the new plants, while cleaner in emissions per unit of energy produced than existing facilities, are not offsetting that existing pollution, but are instead adding incrementally to the air, land and water pollution in the state. If merchant plants wish to site in Kentucky, they should be required to pay their own way in obtaining NOx allowances and through full mitigation of their environmental and community impacts. Please send a second fax to those same committee members, asking them to oppose HB 408.
So How Do I Contact The Legislators?
Glad you asked. It has never been easier to contact legislators in order to make your voice heard. With a single fax to 502-564-6543, you can reach any legislators that you want to contact? You can send a letter, for example, to all Senators and Representatives or all the members of a committee by listing their individual names on a cover sheet and asking that each get a copy of your letter. The good folks at the LRC fax room will copy your fax and distribute it to all that you list (the recipients must be listed by name.) The LRC webpage has a list of all legislators and all committee members.
WANT TO READ THE BILLS OR CONTACT LEGISLATORS?
For a copy of any bill, or to check the status of the bill, which committee it has been assigned to for hearing, and other legislative information, visit the Legislature's Homepage at http://www.lrc.state.ky.us
The toll phone number to reach a legislator in person is 502-564-8100. The toll-free message line is 1-800-372-7181, to leave a message for a legislator or a committee