The 2010 General Assembly Regular Session: A Session Of Opportunities Missed Posted: May 12, 2010
The 2010 General Assembly regular session will be remembered as much for the opportunities missed as for any substantive accomplishments in the areas of environmental protection or energy policy.
As has been the case since 1984, the Kentucky Resources Council lobbied during the 2010 General Assembly regular session in support of progressive environmental and energy policy legislation and full funding for enforcement of environmental programs, and in opposition to bills that would weaken protection of the environment, erode landownerís rights, and subsidize pollution.
KRCís total expenditures for lobbying during the session were $5,918.45, of which $2,165.45 was spent for office expenses (including a subscription to all bills and resolutions) and $3,753.00 in compensation.
Below are the most significant bills and resolutions that KRC opposed, supported, or worked to amend, and the outcomes.
Lifting The Nuclear Power Plant Ban Rejected
Senate Bill 26, sponsored by Senator Bob Leeper, would have eliminated the current state prohibition on construction of new nuclear plants until a permanent waste disposal site is approved, and would have allowed the Public Service Commission to approve new nuclear plant construction with only an approved federal plan for storage of nuclear waste. The bill had the support of the Beshear Administration, and of the coal industry, which ironically opposed HB 3ís proposed renewable portfolio standard but supported this bill.
KRC testified before House and Senate committees in opposition to the bill. The bill passed the Senate 27-10, and died in the House both as SB 26 and as a Senate Committee substitute to HB 213. KRC appreciates House leadershipís role in assuring that the bill did not become law. KRCís testimony can be read at www.kyrc.org.
Updating Screening Levels for Contaminated Properties Fails to Pass
Senate Bill 56, the language of which was negotiated among industry, the Energy and Environment Cabinet and KRC, would update the screening standards for remediation of contaminated properties to include the more recent Region 3 Regional Screening Level Table. It is anticipated that the bill will be heard in the 2011 regular session.
Setting Livestock and Poultry Care Standards
Senate Bill 105 was the Farm Bureauís attempted preemptive strike on local ordinances defining some industrial livestock production practices as animal cruelty. The bill would have preempted such ordinances by creating a state Livestock Care Standards Commission dominated by the commodity association representatives to set standards that no one was obligated to follow. KRC worked with the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee to make the commission advisory to the state Board of Agriculture, and to protect the ability of communities to control and abate nuisances arising from concentrated animal feedlot operations and CAFO siting ordinances.
Though violations of the standards are specifically exempted from the penalty provisions of the statute, counties and cities can adopt the state animal care standards promulgated by the Board of Agriculture by ordinance using their home rule powers and can provide civil and criminal enforcement of them. KRC appreciates the work that Representative Tom McKee and Don Pasley put in on the House Committee Substitute. The modified SB 105 language was included in House Bill 398 and became law.
Billboard Blight is Real!
Once again, lobbyists for the billboard industry attempted to enact legislation allowing the cutting of public right-of-way trees in order to assure billboard visibility. SB 133 did not pass the Senate Committee, and a ďpilotĒ version of the bill died after later being attached to a separate billboard bill that would have exempted non-commercial billboards from permit and setback requirements. As KRC has done for over a decade, it worked to oppose the bill.
House Bill 536 would have exempted the ďHell is Real!Ē billboard on I-65 and other non-commercial message boards from setback and spacing requirements. KRC contacted the Federal Highway Administration after the bill was approved in House Committee, and received a response that the bill would potentially cost $42 million per year in federal highway funds. That risk was sufficient to cause Senate leadership to prudently kill the bill.
Underground Storage Tank Program Eligibility Extended
House Bill 124 passed, extending the registration of tanks eligible for remediation under the Petroleum Storage Tank program until 2015 and allowing reimbursement for remediation expenses up until 2018. As KRC has done in past years, we supported this extension since many landowners are still unaware of the opportunity to be reimbursed for old underground gasoline tank removal.
Private Pipeline Condemnation Bill Dies
House Bill 213, a bill sought by Denbury Resources, would have allowed a private transmission pipeline company to condemn private lands in order to construct a pipeline for transmission of carbon dioxide. KRC testified in opposition to the bill before the House and Senate committees, arguing that it is unconstitutional under Sections 13 and 242 of the Kentucky Constitution to grant a private company the power to condemn the lands of another private party where the public will not be able to use the easement that is condemned. The Senate Judiciary Committee attached provisions of SB 26 to the bill, effectively assuring that it would not pass the House.
House Bill 2 Reenacted As House Bill 240!
HB 240 repealed and reenacted House Bill 2 from the 2008 Session, to address constitutional concerns raised by the enrolling of the bill after midnight of the last legislative day of that session. HB 2, crafted in large part by KRC at the request of Floor Leader Adkins, created an array of tax credits and other taxpayer incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency investments.
House and Senate Fail To Pass Budget But Do Name State Sports Car and State Agricultural Insect!
The Beshear Administrationís budget, and those proposed by the House and Senate, significantly underfunded environmental protection programs. The budgets for air, waste, water, coal and noncoal regulation, forestry, and other programs have been cut by some 25% under the Beshear Administration - far below the point at which the programs are being properly implemented, despite the best efforts of underpaid and overworked staff in the various program areas. KRC will continue to seek to end the taxpayer subsidy of pollution by requiring that agency permit fees cover the full cost of permitting, inspection and compliance. KRC believes that those who purchase the products and services should pay the costs of the licensing and permitting as part of that product or service; the public should not be required to underwrite pollution by paying the lion's share of the cost of permitting facilities that use the public's air, land and water to dilute and discharge of their wastes.
PSC Directed To Open Case On Retail Gas Competition
HJR 141 directs the Legislative Research Commission to open a case on retail competition in natural gas supply. As KRC testified in House and Senate committees, particular caution is warranted when evaluating whether to allow gas marketers access to retail customers now served by the incumbent gas utility. The existing Columbia Gas retail competition pilot has cost those who have participated, during the first eight years, $4.45 million dollars in increased gas costs over and above what they would have paid had they chosen to remain with Columbia Gas!
The PSC has opened the case, and KRC will be intervening on behalf of its members.
Narrow Allowance Of Horse Trail On State Natural Area Approved
HJR 192 encourages the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission to negotiate a memorandum of agreement with the Harlan County Fiscal Court to allow equine access to a ridge trail bordering the Shillelah Wildlife Management Area and Martinís Fork State Natural Area. Language has been substantially narrowed from House Bills 312 and 173, which would have broadly opened up nature preserves and wildlife management areas, and now provides the General Assemblyís recognition that this is a unique situation and does not set a precedent for opening other state natural areas and nature preserves to equine access, nor requiring more horse trail opportunities on wildlife management areas. KRC worked with all parties to craft this narrowly-drawn compromise.
Renewable And Energy Efficiency Portfolio Bill Introduced But Not Passed
HB 3, sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Adkins, is an energy bill incorporating many of the concepts that are found in the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance bill (HB 408) drafted by KRC. HB 3 would create a renewable portfolio standard that eventually achieves 10% of nonindustrial sales of electricity, and energy efficiency standard of 12% of nonindustrial sales. Nonindustrial sales make up roughly half of all electricity sales in Kentucky. Measures that can count towards the energy efficiency standard include both end use measures such as those contained in HB 408, but also improvements in generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and load shifting. The bill did not pass this session, but is expected to be reintroduced in the 2011 Session.
More Transparency and Accountability Built Into Regional Wastewater Commission Bill
HB 221, sponsored by Representatives Belcher and Clark, would authorize formation of a regional wastewater commission and allow existing wastewater utilities to form such a commission, and would exempt the commission from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission. Working with the sponsors and other House members, KRC negotiated a House floor amendment that significantly increased transparency and accountability to the public, as well as opportunities for public involvement in the decision by local wastewater utilities on whether to form or join a proposed regional commission for the Salt River Basin, and establishing standards governing the decisions of the commission. The bill passed the House and died in Senate committee, but is expected to be reintroduced in the 2011 Session.
Planting Bee-friendly Plant Species During Mine Reclamation
HB 175, sponsored by Representative Fitz Steele, encourages post-mining development of pollinator habitats and would request the interim Natural Resources Committee to explore ways to support beekeeping on mine reclamation sites.
Notice of Intent To Conduct Logging Operations Bill Introduced
HB 598, drafted by KRC and sponsored by Rep. Leslie Combs, would create a Notice of Intent To Log form that would be filed with the state Division of Forestry, in order to assist them in determining where timber theft is occurring, and to allow more targeted inspections to assure compliance with state best management practice requirements for commercial timber harvesting operations. The bill will likely be reintroduced in 2011.
None of the legislative lobbying that KRC undertook, and none of our other work, would be possible without the ongoing financial support and encouragement of KRCís members and friends. Thank you, from KRCís staff and Board of Directors!