2013 GENERAL ASSEMBLY REGULAR SESSION: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Posted: April 10, 2013
Continuing a tradition 29 years in the making, the Kentucky Resources Council has been active in promoting legislation to protect the environment, conserve natural resources, protect the public in matters relating to public utility regulation, and to safeguard and advance the rights of the public to be involved in matters of governance.
Each year, we provide a brief wrap-up of the significant bills that the Council supported or opposed, a description of changes to those bills that were made in response to KRC’s concerns, and the disposition of the bills and resolutions. The bills are organized below under the headings “The Good,” “The Bad,” and “The Ugly.”
House Bill 126 extends the deadline for underground storage tank owners to register from July 15, 2013, to July 15, 2016 and also extends reimbursement from the Petroleum Storage Tank Environmental Assurance Fund to July 15, 2016. The PSTEAF program reimburses owners of underground storage tanks for remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater from old leaking underground tanks. Thanks to Rep. Yonts for his continued leadership on this issue.
House Bill 281, sponsored by Rep. Keith Hall, amends current law concerning the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund to allow it to make grants to private, nonprofit land trust organizations on a dollar-for-dollar match basis.
House Bill 378 will increase transparency and public involvement in the process of listing impaired waterbodies, and in development of plans to repair damaged waterways through the development of “Total Maximum Daily Load” plans for pollution reduction. KRC proposed changes to clarify the extent of public involvement, and to assure that rehabilitated waters do not again become impaired, by assuring that conditions imposed in order to effect restoration of the waterbody are not removed once a waterbody achieves attainment. KRC appreciates the efforts of other stakeholders, of Senator Hornback, who sponsored the senate version of the bill, and of House sponsor Rep. Fitz Steele, in agreeing to the changes sought by KRC.
House Bill 392, sponsored by Rep. York, would amend open meetings law to require agencies to consider adequate space, seating, and acoustics in selecting locations for meetings. The text of HB 392 was incorporated into House Bill 54, which was passed by both chambers and was sent to the Governor.
House Bill 424, sponsored by Rep. Gooch, is a mixed bag, but overall is a net improvement over current law. The Commonwealth of Kentucky has not been requiring that coal mining permittees post reclamation bonds that are sufficient to assure completion of the reclamation plans in the event of permittee default, and this long-standing failure finally prompted the federal Office of Surface Mining to issue a letter warning the state that a federal takeover of that portion of the mining program would occur absent state action. The state increased individual bond amounts, and then proposed a supplemental “pooled” bond to cover the remainder of the costs. This mandatory bond pool allows a company to opt out and to post individual bonds set at the level that would be recommended under the federal OSM bond calculation formula. Unfortunately, the bill does not provide for bond pool coverage of long-term substandard water discharges, and that issue will need to be addressed at a later date by regulation or statutory change. The text of House Bill 424 was inserted into House Bill 66, which was passed by both chambers and signed into law.
House Joint Resolution 41 would have directed formation of a task force to conduct a study of the energy consumption in manufactured housing in Kentucky and to recommend actions to improve energy efficiency in manufactured housing. It passed the House but not the Senate.
House Concurrent Resolution 42 would have established a Timber Theft and Trespass Reduction Task Force to study issues regarding timber theft and trespass and to develop consensus recommendations to address those issues. It stalled in Senate Committee.
House Resolution 78, sponsored by Rep. Meeks, is a simple resolution urging LG&E not to build a coal ash landfill over Wentworth Cave near the Trimble 1 & 2 Power Plant. The cave is believed to have been used as part of the Underground Railroad. LG&E has indicated it will not challenge a state denial of the proposed landfill permit that was based on the impact on the cave.
Senate Bill 53, sponsored by Sen. Denton of Louisville, would have removed management control of the Blackacre Nature Preserve from the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission and vested it in the non-governmental Blackacre Conservancy. While KRC appreciates the efforts of the Conservancy to raise funds for the Preserve, the bill would have sanctioned a number of activities on the property that would have violated the Articles of Dedication by which the property came into the state nature preserves system. KRC testimony highlighted those problems, and the bill was tabled in committee without a vote. A version of the bill that would have kept management with the Commission but would have directed them to allow prohibited activities, was filed as a floor amendment to HB 150 and then withdrawn. KRC appreciates the careful review of the bill provided by the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and in particular Senators Webb, Jones, and Schickel.
Senate Bill 80 would have prohibited any state agency or political subdivision of the state from implementing any part of the United Nations Agenda 21 “that is contrary to the United States or Kentucky Constitution,” or being a member of or expending any public funds on a group or organization that will implement any part of the United Nations Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development created by the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Some have criticized Agenda 21 as a conspiracy by the U.N. to deprive individuals of property rights. The bill passed the Senate but died in House committee.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 273, sponsored by Senator Dan Seum, urges the President to support oil production off the Alaska coast and the Keystone XL Pipeline. It was adopted by the Senate but not acted on by the House.
Senate Resolution 275, also sponsored by Senator Seum, is a simple resolution encouraging Congress and the Secretary of State to support importation of Canadian oil and the Keystone XL Pipeline project.
House Bill 165 would have created a permit exemption for rock quarries dredging or excavating rock from “waterways” owned by those using the excavated rock solely on their own farm for “farm purposes.” The exemption could have resulted in off-site damage from erosion, sedimentation, and blasting that would otherwise be regulated under permit, impacts that are not diminished by the end use of the quarried material. KRC testified in opposition to the bill in the House, and the bill was not taken up by the Senate. KRC appreciates Senator Carpenter’s decision in this regard.
House Bill 211 was intended to allow Century Aluminum to bypass the Big Rivers Electric Cooperative and to purchase electricity from the market. KRC opposed the bill because it would have resulted in a shifting of costs to remaining ratepayers of system changes that would have been required to support the delivery of market power to Century Aluminum. The bill was not acted on by the House. KRC appreciates the efforts of Senator Bowen and Representative Thompson to attempt to mediate the dispute between the parties.
House Bill 370 began as a good bill, clarifying that industrial revenue bonds could be issued to assist manufacturing facilities with projects designed to increase energy efficiency. However, a Senate Floor Amendment was added that included a lifting of the current ban on new nuclear power plants in Kentucky. The House did not take up the bill for concurrence thanks to Rep. Adkins.
House Concurrent Resolution 109 urges Congress to persuade the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw its proposed Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard for Electric Generating Units.
Senate Bill 88, known as “the AT&T bill,” would have allowed AT&T, Windstream, and Cincinnati Bell to stop providing basic local exchange phone service for all new and all existing customers in areas with over 5,000 housing units. For exchanges with less than 5,000 housing units, AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell could have required customers with stand-alone basic landline phone service to accept wireless voice service instead, and could cease offering basic phone service on an unbundled, stand-alone basis. The Public Service Commission would have lost regulatory powers over the quality and reliability of basic local exchange phone service.
After passing the Senate on a divided vote, the bill stalled in the House due to concerns by House members and House leadership that the bill would erode service availability and quality, particularly in rural and mountainous regions of the Commonwealth.
Other Bills of Interest
Senate Bill 46, a bill intended to help the EcoPower Generation facility proposed for Perry County, would allow the Public Service Commission to approve a purchase power agreement between a utility and a small biomass facility provided that the costs are fair, just, and reasonable considering the entire term of the purchased power agreement.