Looking Back On KRC's Work In 2015 Posted: December 29, 2015
LOOKING BACK THROUGH 2015
As KRC continues its 32nd year of environmental advocacy, we look back on what the Council has accomplished for the continued well-being of the Commonwealth and its citizens, and we reflect on how vital the support of our members and friends is to the Council’s efforts. As you know, The Council takes no corporate or government funding, and rely instead on friends and members to enable us to offer assistance to those who need it most and who can’t find that help elsewhere. Thanks to all of you who have shared time and resources to advance our shared mission of promoting environmental justice and health across our Commonwealth.
Here’s a brief snapshot of our work during the past year – work that the Council's friends and members have made possible:
Providing Individual Assistance to People and Neighborhoods With Environmental Issues
KRC provides free legal representation for scores of individuals and groups facing problems such as condemnation, landslides, blasting damage, water loss, and other adverse effects of mining, oil and gas development, and industrial pollution. From information to brief assistance and legal representation, KRC is the only statewide resource that these individuals have to secure a modicum of justice, and we are there for them only because of KRC's friends and members. This year, among other issues and cases, KRC has:
•Continued to advise local governments and citizens on issues relating to the proposed Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline, including efforts in Boyle and Madison County to enact local zoning ordinance amendments to allow more local control over the proposal to “repurpose” a 70+ year-old pipeline to carry natural gas liquids;
•Represented the Metropolitan Housing Coalition in a utility rate case, resulting in additional protections for vulnerable fixed- and low-income utility customers of LG&E and KU, and preventing a sharp increase in customer charges;
•Continued to represent a citizen’s group in defending a court decision that the Bluegrass Pipeline did not have the power of eminent domain for a natural gas liquids pipeline. After the Court of Appeals upheld the initial decision that private, non-utility companies do not have the power of condemnation, the company has appealed to the state Supreme Court, where the case is pending;
•Continued working with Bullitt County residents in opposing the expansion of a limestone mine that would bring the mining into close proximity to existing residential areas;
•Challenged the Daviess County Fiscal Court decision to approve rezoning of agricultural land to allow strip mining on a 600-acre tract near a regional Girl Scouts camp and historic African-American church. The Kentucky Court of Appeals heard argument on the case on October 29, 2015;
•Worked with two Madison County landowners challenging a confined animal feedlot operation, resulting in a settlement of a permit challenge and a related nuisance claim;
•Filed suit on behalf of Boyd County residents challenging a 2005 decision of the Boyd County Fiscal Court to allow 42 million tons of New York and New Jersey garbage and sewage sludge to be landfilled at the Big Run Landfill, resulting in odor and stench problems in recent years. A comprehensive settlement between the county, the landfill, and the local environmental organization represented by KRC, will end shipment of waste by rail by July 1, 2016 and limit the geographic area and tonnage of waste going forward;
•Settled a case on behalf of the Wolfpen Branch Preservation Association, assuring that a constructed wetland pledged by Norton Commons as part of a residential development would be protected from incursion by other development;
•Negotiated language with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture providing greater transparency and protection of students in public schools during application of structural pest controls in schools;
Legislative Advocacy To Protect The Environment
KRC is a leading source for information about proposed legislation affecting the environment and public access to government, producing highly-regarded weekly bill summaries and bill tracking. Within limits established for non-profit tax-exempt organizations, KRC works for reform on legislation affecting the environment, public health, and public safety.
Among the legislative successes during the 2015 session were significant reforms in landowner and public rights in the field of oil and gas regulation – the first in 21 years – and opposition to the AT&T deregulation bill, resulting in some improvements in the most anti-consumer bill that KRC has seen in many years.
In 32 years, KRC has authored and collaborated on bills concerning solid waste reform, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and many other topics, that have become law. In 2016, KRC expects to advocate for better oversight of hazardous liquids pipelines, and to assure that non-utility pipeline companies do not gain the power of eminent domain.
Tracking Regulatory Changes
Monitoring and commenting on proposed changes to state and federal regulations is essential in assuring that the intent of environmental health and safety laws are not compromised in their implementation. Among the agencies to whom the Council has commented are the Public Service Commission, Heritage Land Conservation Board, Divisions of Water and of Waste Management, Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, and the EPA.
Speaking Up And Speaking Out
In 2015, the Council has been actively engaged in lecturing, participating in educational forums, and writing on behalf of environmental health and environmental justice.
Thank you once again to KRC's friends and members for your support and participation in the Council’s work. KRC continues a proud tradition as Kentucky’s only statewide pro bono legal advocacy organization dedicated to providing assistance on environment and energy issues; and it is the involvement of many people, each bringing their unique perspective and skills, that makes our work on behalf of environmental quality and justice possible.