Friday, February 27, 2015

State Senate unanimously passes new ‘fracking’ regs

FRANKFORT – The state Senate today passed legislation that would modernize Kentucky’s regulations on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as “fracking,” for the first time in more than two decades.

 The legislation, known as Senate Bill 186, would mandate energy companies notify nearby landowners of any planned fracking process, clean up the well before abandoning it and disclose of the chemicals used in the fracking process, said Sen. Julian M. Carroll, D-Frankfort, the sponsor of the bill. He added that the bill would apply to new drilling operations.

 “We haven’t really changed our laws or regulations in 20 years,” said Carroll. “During that time, technology has advanced that could essentially make Kentucky energy independent if we will go after our (energy) reserves. We are already doing that in the area of gas. This moves us in that direction with oil.”

Similar legislation passed the state House on Wednesday. The House bill, HB 386, is sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook.

 Fracking is an oil and gas well development process that typically involves injecting water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into a bedrock formation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The technique is used commonly in low-permeability rocks like tight sandstone, shale and some coal beds to release oils and gasses.

 Tom Fitzgerald, director of the nonprofit environmental advocacy group Kentucky Resources Council, previously testified that he supported the bill. Carroll said during a floor speech that a key to getting Fitzgerald’s support was to include language in the bill that would require baseline water quality testing before any new fracking could begin. Those tests would be followed with additional water sampling once operations begin in order to monitor drilling impacts to local water sources.

 Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, said the legislation is the product of a year’s worth of work by officials at the state Energy and Environment Cabinet. He added that the legislation is also backed by the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association.

CPR training bill passes Kentucky House

Kentucky's public high schools would be expected to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation training to students under a bill that has passed the state House.

The measure would require that the CPR training be included in health education curriculum.

The bill cleared the House on a 94-1 vote Thursday and now goes to the Senate.

Democratic Rep. Jeff Greer of Brandenburg says training more people in CPR will save lives.

Greer, the bill's sponsor, says CPR training is crucial in rural areas where no hospital is nearby and it can take paramedics some time to reach a person stricken with a heart attack.

The legislation is House Bill 249.

US mining regulators cite Virginia coal mine after Jan. visit


Federal mine inspectors say they issued 176 citations during a January inspection of mines, including 31 at a Virginia coal mine.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration on Thursday released the results of its inspections last month. The inspections occurred at 13 coal mines and three metal and nonmetal mines.

The monthly inspections focus on mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement because of a poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns.

On Jan. 13, MSHA conducted an impact inspection at Mill Branch Coal Corp's Osaka Mine in Wise County, Virginia. As a result, inspectors issued 31 citations, among other findings.

MSHA said its inspectors found hazardous conditions that exposed miners to potential ignitions, fire and explosions, and the risk of developing black lung and other respiratory diseases.

Kentucky House OKs workplace bill for pregnant workers

The Kentucky House has passed a bill that would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for their pregnant workers.

Those accommodations for pregnant workers could include longer or more frequent breaks, modification of equipment, appropriate seating, modified work schedules and temporary transfer to less strenuous roles.

The measure passed the House on a 95-0 vote Thursday and now goes to the Senate.
The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins, says it would provide clear-cut guidelines for employers and employees in protecting and supporting pregnant workers.

She says the result could help minimize litigation dealing with such workplace issues.

The legislation is House Bill 218.

Lawmaker: More time needed to study tailgating proposal

A Kentucky lawmaker says more time is needed to study the issue of licensing alcohol consumption at tailgating events before college games.

The tailgating language proposed by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian was removed from her bill by the House Licensing and Occupations Committee on Wednesday.

She floated the idea of creating a new liquor license to provide a legal framework for tailgating.
The Louisville Democrat says the issue was more complex than she expected. Marzian says she'll work on the issue ahead of next year's legislative session.

She says one question deals with enforcement of alcohol consumption at tailgating on private property near a university stadium.

The part of the bill that remains intact would allow passengers on certain cycle taxis to drink alcohol.

The committee approved that portion of the bill.

Expungement bill for low-level felons clears Kentucky House

The Kentucky House has passed a bill that would allow certain low-level felons to ask a judge to have their criminal records expunged.

The bill cleared the House on an 84-14 vote Wednesday and now goes to the Senate, where similar bills have died in past years.

Under the measure, people convicted of class D felonies could petition a court for expungement five years after completing their sentence or probation.

The bill would not apply to people convicted of sex offenses or crimes against children. A prosecutor or victim would have the right to present evidence to the judge considering an expungement motion.

The bill's lead sponsor is Democratic Rep. Darryl Owens of Louisville.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Senate approves SOAR funding legislation

Democratic Floor Leader Jones calls for all coal severance revenue to be returned to coal producing counties
FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate today approved legislation to set up a funding mechanism to finance projects of the Support One Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative. The Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development Fund (KARDF) will receive money from coal severance tax and be administered by the Department for Local Government. KARDF will oversee grants for economic diversification and job creation for the region.
Voicing his support for Senate Bill 168 to spur economic development in Eastern Kentucky, Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, called for 100 percent of coal severance revenue to be returned to the coal producing counties. He noted the decline in coal severance tax receipts and the much-needed uses for that revenue in the coal counties.
In his floor speech, Leader Jones said that SOAR is truly a bi-partisan initiative and he commended Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers for coming together to recognize the needs in Eastern Kentucky.
“This bill sets the framework to ensure that the SOAR initiative is successful,” said Leader Jones.
Aware of the difficulties facing the region including the hardships resulting from restructuring in the coal industry, SOAR’s mission is to expand job creation, enhance regional opportunity, innovation and identity, improve the quality of life and support all those working to achieve these goals in AppalachianKentucky.
SB 168 not only creates the funding mechanism, KARDF, but identifies the purposes for which money from the fund may be used and provides an application process.
Leader Jones said SB 168 is a work in progress and is glad to see the SOAR initiative moving forward.
SB 168 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration