Story by Carrie Searcy
Photos by Lanny Brannock and JD Sparks
Environmental issues and achievements were highlighted by expert speakers at the 2018 Governor’s Conference on Energy and the Environment in Lexington, Kentucky on October 11 and 12.
Governor Matthew Bevin best summed up the tone of the conference in his keynote address. “Great things come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustle,” Gov. Bevin said, quoting Abraham Lincoln.
The nearly 300 people who attended the two-day conference heard speakers talk about the future of Kentucky’s energy profile, water and wastewater issues and solutions, projects to reclaim abandoned mine lands for economic development and the future of regulated energy.
David Ross, Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water, followed Gov. Bevin and discussed the Trump administration’s views on environmental regulations, and the impact they have had on the environment and economic development.
A panel on day one, led by KET’s host and producer Renee Shaw, discussed issues that might be deliberated during the 2018 legislative session including net metering, the energy grid and energy usage. Panelists included Senator Jared Carpenter, Representative Jim Gooch, Tom Fitzgerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, Kate Shanks of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely.
Later that afternoon, a panel led by Peter Goodmann, director of the Division of Water, with EEC, led a discussion of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Panelists included David Ross, Mike Ricketts of the Army Corps of Engineers, Mike Hardin, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, Nick Dilks managing partner of Ecosystem Investment Partners and Brian Miller of the Northern Kentucky Home Builders Association.
Day two of the conference started off with keynote speaker Steve Winberg, Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy. Winberg discussed the changing energy landscape and how the U.S. has the power to change the energy dependency of not only the U.S., but the world.
“It’s geopolitics,” said Winberg. “We can sell energy to our European allies which were previously dependent on Russia for natural gas. The U.S. has the power to change that.”
During his address, Winberg discussed how fossil fuels could evolve into even cleaner forms of reliable energy using carbon capture.
“The U.S. has an abundant amount of energy that can and already is propelling us forward,” said Winberg.
The next panel of speakers elaborated on successes of federal grant-funded pilot projects being overseen by EEC’s Division of Abandoned Mine Lands. Director Bob Scott introduced presentations by panelists Justin Adams of DAML, who oversees the pilot program, Tim Gibbs of Ashland Alliance and Daniel Elliot of Enerblu. Both Ashland Alliance and Enerblu gave examples of how the pilot program provided the funding that drew their companies to Kentucky and the challenges of locating on previously mined lands.
“AML is providing the necessities needed to attract businesses to Kentucky and reinvent a region,” said Elliot.
Cabinet Secretary Snavely then moderated an energy panel that covered regulations, energy grid resilience, threats against the grid, cyber-attacks, pipelines and energy rates. Panelists included Neil Chatterjee, Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Asim Z. Haque, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Talina Matthews, Commissioner of the Kentucky Public Service Commission and Andrew L. Ott, president of PJM Interconnection.
Panelists were asked about energy bills in Kentucky.
“I think we have done a great job at keep energy costs low,” said Matthews.
The day drew to a conclusion with an awards ceremony led by Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton that honored many deserving recipients for their work preserving and enhancing the Commonwealth through energy efficiency, soil conservation, mine land reclamation, farmland stewardship or innovation.
The 2018 Secretary’s Award went to attorney Tom “Fitz” Fitzgerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, who has spent nearly four decades advocating for those, “downhill, downwind and downstream,” as was inscribed upon his award.
Fitzgerald has been hailed as the “watchdog of the environment” in the Bluegrass state for the past four decades. He has been a thoughtful, courageous and influential advocate on behalf of the environment. He has used his expert knowledge of the law and his relationships with state leaders and policy makers to fight for environmental policies that safeguard the health of citizens and preserve the natural heritage of the Commonwealth.
Other awards handed out to those honored included:
The Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund Stewardship Award, given by the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves, was awarded to Campbellsville University for its management of Clay Hill Memorial Forest.
The Biodiversity Award, given by the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves, was awarded to The Kentucky Native Plant Society for its educational programs and research grants to students.
The Outstanding Forest Steward Award, given by the Department for Natural Resources, was awarded to William and Chris Lagermann of Red Lick Ranch, LLC, for their excellent woodlands management.
The Excellence in Reclamation Award, given by the Department for Natural Resources, was awarded to CAM Mining, LLC, which donated 531 acres of re- vegetated land plus almost 500 more acres of adjacent land to the City of Pikeville to help create an industrial site.
The Award for Excellence in Mine Safety, given by the Department for Natural Resources, was awarded to East Mac and Nellie Mine, whose 100 employees have produced approximately 1.5 million tons of coal, while operating injury free for two-and-a-half years.
The Award for Excellence in Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation, given by the Department for Natural Resources, was awarded to Triple H Excavating, LLC, which persevered over weeks of bad weather and challenging terrain to abate a significant and dangerous Abandoned Mine Lands problem at Leatherwood, KY.
The Kentucky EXCEL Champion Award, presented by the Department for Environmental Protection was awarded to Sekisui S-Lec America for its commitment to reducing greenhouse gases in all its processes, as well as reducing waste and identifying water resource risks – all the while reducing consumption.
The Environmental Pacesetter Award, given by the Department for Environmental Protection, was awarded to the Lincoln County Sanitation District, which pursued and received multiple grants and loans to install a sanitary sewer line to allow the waste to be transported for treatment.
The Resource Caretaker Award, given by the Department for Environmental Protection, was awarded to Dr. Chris Barton, of Green Forests Work, for his work at reforesting surface-mined land in the Appalachian region, especially in eastern Kentucky.
The Community Environmental Luminary Award, given by the Department for Environmental Protection, was awarded to Leggett & Platt, Inc. – Winchester Spring Branch No. 2, for its work spreading information about recycling and preserving our environment among more than 450 young students.
The Kentucky Excellence in Energy Leadership Awards, given by the Office of Energy, was awarded to Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative. Nolin Rural Electric was honored for its long history of leadership and innovation in providing energy services.
The Kentucky Excellence in Energy Leadership Awards, given by the Office of Energy, was awarded to Glasgow Water Company. Glasgow Water was honored for reducing electricity costs more than 25 percent and energy usage per unit volume of wastewater treated by more than 40 percent.