Governor, House leaders at odds over energy policy

The debate over the state’s comprehensive energy policy could be over for this year’s legislative session, or could be taken up in the session’s final two days next week, depending upon who you ask.

House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, a Sandy Hook Democrat and the chamber’s point person on energy issues, said earlier this week that his House Bill 537, which would help outline the state’s energy policy, is dead for the session.

The announcement came after the Senate tacked on provisions to the bill that would lift the state’s moratorium on nuclear energy production and open up state-owned lands for oil and gas well leases, according to the Courier-Journal.

“The Senate is not willing to recede in those additions they have put onto it, so House bill 537 is dead for this session,” Adkins said in the statement.

But during a sweep through western Kentucky on Thursday to hand out Department of Homeland Security grants, Gov. Steve Beshear urged passage of the bill with the additions, the site KYWordsmith.com is reporting.

Beshear reportedly defended the nuclear energy provisions in the bill, saying that it will allow the discussion to begin about whether the state should allow nuclear power plants during a stop in Paducah, according to KYWordsmith.com.

The remarks apparently received a warm reception in the Paducah area, which is home to a uranium enrichment facility and to Sen. Bob Leeper, the Independent lawmaker who has pushed for the moratorium to be lifted for at least two legislative sessions.

The House and Senate reconvene for the final two days of the session on March 26.

Advertisements

Lawmakers hear plans for coal-to-natural gas plan in Muhlenberg County

Representatives from the two companies planning a multi-billion dollar coal-to-natural gas conversion plant in Muhlenberg County received words of praise from lawmakers Wednesday during presentations to legislative committees. 

The plant being planned by Peabody Energy Corp. and ConocoPhillips is expected to provide 500 long-term jobs once it is operational and should pump $100 million into the local economy, said Sarah Edman with ConocoPhillips said. 

“There was a tremendous amount of work that went in to hopefully get the attention of not only Peabody and ConocoPhillips but other energy companies coming to Kentucky,” said Rep. Rocky Adkins, a Sandy Hook Democrat. “If we really want to stimulate the economy in this country … the energy field is where we can do it.”

But challenges still remain for the project which just began the permitting process in December and is dependent in part on a volatile natural gas market and the possibility of new federal regulations governing carbon emissions. 

At this point, the companies can’t say when construction of the plant will begin because of economic and permitting variables, and declined to offer a specific cost estimate for the project when asked by legislators because of many of those same variables.

The previous project planned at the site outside Central City — the Thoroughbred Energy Campus coal-fired power plant — was dropped last year after a difficult permitting process that included challenges from environmental groups. 

“I think gasification is a promising technology provided that you can address the carbon issues, and that is a great uncertainty,” said Tom FitzGerald with the Kentucky Resources Council. “There are tremendous technical uncertainties and questions about the ability to sequester carbon.”

Read more about the project in Thursday’s Messenger-Inquirer.

Local legislator named to Southern Legislative Conference post

Rep. John Arnold Jr., the Sturgis Democrat who represents the 7th District in the Kentucky House, has been named chairman of the Southern Legislative Conference’s Human Services and Public Safety Committee.

Arnold, a chiropractor, was appointed to the post during the SLC’s annual meeting in Oklahoma City earlier this month.

According to the Conference’s Web site, the committee “has undertaken assessments of Medicaid and reform; the nursing shortage; long-term health care; the Children’s Health Insurance Program and such corrections issues as criminal justice DNA statutes; the aging inmate population; female offenders; sentencing reform; and prison staffing in Southern states.”

Arnold is one of two Kentucky legislators chosen to head one of the Conference’s six standing committees. Rep. Rocky Adkins, a Sandy Hook Democrat, was selected this year to chair the Energy and Environment Committee.

Arnold was first elected to the state House in 1994 and his district includes western Daviess County along with Union and Henderson counties.