House Bill 458 passes committee, and now goes to House Rules.
Despite the courageous votes against the bill by Representatives Keith Hall, Howard Cornett, Brandon Smith and Don Pasley, the House Natural Resources Committee passed House Bill 458 yesterday evening. The vote was closer than expected, because your calls are having an impact on the process.
The bill now moves to House Rules, where leadership could recommit the bill or send it to the floor for a vote. Please contact Representative Greg Stumbo and the other members of House leadership, Reps. Jim Callahan, Joe Barrows, Jeff Hoover, Bob DeWeese and Ken Upchurch, and ask them to recommit House Bill 458 to another committee where the impact on county authority and public health and welfare could be more carefully considered and hopefully better-respected.
Moved by abusive practices by oil and gas interests in Letcher County, the Letcher County Fiscal Court has been considering using its "home rule" authority under KRS 67.083 to require that companies seeking to site "gathering lines" for the transmission of natural gas, to protect the rights of surface landowners.
In response, the oil and gas industry drafted House Bill 458, which would pre-empt all county ordinances affecting the oil and gas industry other than zoning, and would do nothing to extend state law to end the abuses that spurred the county to act in the first instance.
This direct assault on the power of counties to act in the absence of state standards to protect their citizens is unnecessary. While industry claims that they might be subject to inconsistent county regulations, existing law at KRS 67.083 assures that local government actions will not be inconsistent with state standards. In the absence of state standards, counties must be free to act to protect against oil and gas industry abusers.
HB 458 is dangerous, since it preempts local government without requiring that the state act to protect public health and the environment from the acknowledged abuse practiced routinely by some companies. If the industry were truly interested in avoiding inconsistent regulations, they would be asking for a comprehensive regulatory program at the state level protecting the public health and welfare from the adverse public health, public safety and environmental impacts of the oil and gas industry. Instead, what is sought is no county regulation and no state regulation of the impacts of gathering lines on landowners
HB 458 is offensive, since it deprives counties of the police powers recognized by the General Assembly as properly belonging to local communities, unless the state has adopted a single standard of conduct in which case existing law resolves any conflicts.
KRC proposed an alternative approach, which would address the specific issue of gathering lines while preserving county authority in other areas. Rather than broadly precluding local enactments and not addressing the problem, KRC recommended that HB 458 direct the development of a state-level program similar to the program currently in place for well location, to resolve these concerns. With a state-level program in place, the goal of uniformity among counties would be achieved without trampling county authority, since the existence of a state standard would preclude any inconsistent local program without the need to disrupt the current "home rule" statute and the carefully-structured relationship of state and local government authority embodied therein.
To that end, KRC suggested that Section 1 of the bill be deleted and replaced with this language:
Any person proposing to locate a gathering line over the surface of lands that are owned by another person, shall apply to the Department of Mines and Minerals for a permit to construct and locate the gathering line. The permit shall contain an operations and reclamation proposal for the areas to be disturbed in support of the gathering line, which shall contain information comparable to that required by KRS 353.5901(1)(a)-(d). Notice provisions comparable to KRS 353.5901(2) shall be used to notify all surface owners. If the surface owner through whose property the gathering line is proposed to be located does not provide written agreement to the proposal, the mediation provisions of KRS 353.5901(3) shall be employed to resolve conflicts concerning the location of such gathering lines.
Please contact the Representatives listed above and your State Representative to oppose HB 458.
HOW TO CONTACT LEGISLATORS:
Legislative Message Line: 800-372-7181 Legislators Fax Line 502-564-6543