Update from the Kentucky 2012 General Assembly
The regular session of the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly concluded on April 8, 2012. Although legislators were mired in the partisan politics of redistricting, several important environment, energy, and natural resources-related bills were passed. Among the bills passed, the General Assembly established a new Brownfields redevelopment program, a secondary metals recycling program, and a green schools program, and revised pipeline safety penalties during this session. The most significant bills are identified below.
- Senate Bill 152 - Amends sections of KRS 367 relating to 811 “call before you dig” to include timber harvesting with mechanized equipment within the activities potentially damaging to underground utilities.
- Senate Bill 162 - Comprehensive revision of statutes governing registration of geologists, including conferring additional investigative powers on the registration board.
- House Bill 148 - Amends the state pipeline safety law to delete the $25,000 maximum penalty and replace it with civil penalties contained in the federal code.
- House Bill 255 - Creates the Kentucky Green Schools Authority to promote energy efficiency in school buildings through technical assistance, expertise, and financing.
- House Bill 265 - Creates the Executive Branch budget for fiscal years 2012 to 2014, which provides $17 million to install a permanent cap at the Maxey Flats nuclear waste site and reauthorizes the waste tire fee for two additional years.
- House Bill 339 - Amends existing law to require the Public Service Commission to determine interest rates paid by utilities on an annual basis.
- House Bill 344 - Prohibits the intentional release of hogs or pigs into the wild, and prohibits the importation, transportation, or possession of wild or feral pigs or boars.
- House Bill 385 - Amends KRS Chapter 351 by making changes to the drug free certification program by requiring Kentucky to impose analogous sanctions against the licenses and certifications of coal miners who violate the drug testing requirements of a reciprocal state; allows first time offenders to enter a deferment program for drug treatment; establishes a notice and appeal process; establishes penalties; and allows the Mine Safety Review Commission to establish additional drug testing panels by order.
- House Bill 390 - Establishes a registration system for secondary metal recyclers to be administered by the Public Protection Cabinet. Among the provisions of the new program will be an obligation for “secondary metals recyclers” who obtain or process used ferrous or nonferrous metals to submit to a background check, register with the Public Protection Cabinet, and pay an annual registration. The new law will prohibit cash transactions for purchases of metals (manhole covers, light poles, guard rails, street signs, funeral markers or bases, railroad equipment, condensing or evaporating coils, stainless steel beer kegs, catalytic converters and storm drain covers), and require daily digital reporting of purchases to the county sheriff and police. The new law will also require that the recycler obtain reasonable proof that the seller is, or is the agent for, the owner of the materials.
- House Bill 465 - Establishes a Brownfields redevelopment program to be administered by the Energy and Environment Cabinet. Owners of property where a release of petroleum, pollutants, or contaminants has occurred would be exempt from the obligations to perform characterization and corrective action for the release, provided the owner certifies and the Cabinet finds that the release occurred prior to acquisition of the property, that “all appropriate inquiries” were made, that all legal notices have been made regarding the presence of the hazardous substance on the property, that the property owner complies with all land use restrictions and does not impede or compromise any institutional controls, that the property owner is not affiliated with any person potentially liable for the release, and that the person has not caused or contributed to the release. The bill establishes criteria for the protection from liability for property owners and authorizes the Cabinet to promulgate administrative regulations to establish standards and procedures for implementing the Brownfields redevelopment program. The bill also amends KRS 224.60-135 to provide that property owners are not required to take corrective action where a release from a petroleum storage tank has occurred if the property owner is not the tank owner or operator, and amends KRS 224.60-138 to provide that no further action is needed regarding residual contamination on property where a release has occurred from a petroleum storage tank if the contamination is below standards established by the Cabinet under the Brownfields redevelopment program.
- House Bill 559 - Clarifies that the moratorium on construction of new nuclear fission power plants does not preclude several nuclear-related technologies, including closed loop fuel cycle plants designed to assist in conversion of coal and gas to fuels. Among the activities to which the current moratorium is not to be construed as applying or precluding are: (1) enrichment of depleted uranium hexafluoride tails; (2) processing of metals contaminated with radioactive materials; (3) recycling or reprocessing of spent nuclear fuels; or (4) nuclear-assisted coal or gas conversion processes; provided that electricity is not the primary output of any of these processes. The current moratorium would not, even in the absence of this legislation, have applied to the first three categories of activities. The final category is intended to allow facilities to compete for siting of a high-temperature gas-cooled modular reactor used for conversion of coal to syngas or synthetic fuel.
Several environmental bills were presented but did not pass during the session. The most noteworthy are identified below:
- House Bill 231 (the “Stream Saver Bill”) would have prohibited the disposal of overburden from mining operations in streams.
- House Bill 246 would have expanded the types of alternative and renewable energy qualifying for state incentives and would exempt sales of some geothermal drilling supplies and tools from sales and use tax.
- House Bill 404 would have implemented more stringent state requirements for the disposal of coal combustion residuals.
- House Bill 418 would have required a notice of methamphetamine contamination to be filed by the county attorney with the county clerk who would attach the notice to the deed when properties are declared to be contaminated with chemicals used in methamphetamine manufacturing and require a notice of decontamination to be filed when the property is properly cleaned.
- House Bill 561 would have allowed the Energy and Environment Cabinet to develop regulations under the water well certification program to establish standards for drilling geothermal bore holes and installing geothermal systems and require the administrative regulations to include annually recurring certification requirements for geothermal bore hole drillers.
Bingham Greenebaum Doll will continue to track legislation during the special session and new administrative regulations which will be developed under these new statutory provisions in future editions of the Environmental Letter.
To view a complete PDF of the March/April 2012 issue of the Environmental Letter, click HERE.