environment

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Environmentalists and manufacturers are throwing their support behind a bill that would change how some plastics recyclers are regulated, and possibly grow the industry.

Most of the plastics used today end up in the landfill, or in the environment. House Bill 45 would benefit companies that break down recycled plastics into raw materials for use in new products.

Rep. Adam Bowling, a Republican from Middlesboro and the bill’s sponsor, said it would redefine so-called “advanced recycling facilities” under the law, regulating them as manufacturers instead of waste disposal facilities. 

“It could help spur economic growth while at the same time helping to reduce plastic waste, a win-win opportunity we don’t often see,” Bowling said.

LG&E and KU plan to burn coal for another four decades

Jan 11, 2022
Erica Peterson

Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities is planning for a net zero carbon future. It’s also planning to burn coal through 2066. 

The planet is running out of time to eliminate its reliance on fossil fuels, and the coal that keeps the lights on in Kentucky is one of the state’s biggest contributors to global warming. Earth has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius since humankind started carbon-loading the atmosphere at the start of the industrial revolution. 

Warming temperatures in Kentucky will bring more extreme weather events. More floods, more droughts, more heat waves, more urban heat and less predictability for farmers and ranchers.

Environmental Defense Fund

A new study of abandoned oil and gas wells has found Kentucky has among the highest number of orphan wells in the country. Federal funds will now help clean them up. 

Orphan wells are wells no longer in operation who have no solvent owner of record, leaving tribes, state and federal governments liable for the clean-up. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed into law on Nov. 15 has set aside nearly $5 billion to plug and clean up documented orphan wells.

The Environmental Defense Fund, working with oil and gas regulators, found more than 81,000 of them across the country, according to a new report

“We wanted to put this map together to make the problem palpable for people so they could understand this is a big problem, it’s in a lot of places, it may even be near where I live,” said EDF Senior Attorney Adam Peltz.

Utility-scale solar booming in Kentucky

Nov 22, 2021
Duke Energy

Merchant solar companies looking to harness the power of the sun are increasingly turning to Kentucky. Over the last two years, utility regulators have approved 13 utility-scale solar projects across the state.

These so-called merchant solar companies build solar arrays to sell electricity in wholesale markets or directly to companies looking for renewable energy sources. 

Utility regulators on the Kentucky State Board on Electric Generation and Transmission Siting approved four of these projects in the last month alone — the latest of which is planning to build a 200 megawatt solar project on a reclaimed coal mine in Martin County. 

Kentucky Solar Industries Association President Matt Partymiller said the costs to build solar projects has fallen dramatically over the last decade, from about $6 per watt to about $1 per watt.

Kentucky utility regulators understaffed, under-resourced

Nov 18, 2021
Ryan Van Velzer

Public Service Commission Chairman Kent Chandler told state lawmakers Wednesday the utility regulatory agency doesn’t have the staff or resources to manage the current workload — let alone the work expected from a windfall of federal funding for infrastructure projects. 

It’s hard to tell from the name, but the Public Service Commission is the state agency in charge of regulating most utilities, including electricity, gas, some water and even a little bit of telecommunications. 

Chandler’s frank admission came in response to a question from Republican state Rep. Suzanne Miles of Owensboro about whether the Public Service Commission had adequate staffing.  

“No,” Chandler said during the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources & Energy. “I don’t mean to be flippant, Representative Miles, but I just want to be honest. We do not.”

PFAS pollution could last millennia. Kentucky officials told the polluter, but not residents

Nov 16, 2021
Ryan Van Velzer

Jess Wright

A Kentucky court has found coal companies owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice in default of a 2019 mine reclamation agreement.

A judge in Frankfort on Tuesday ordered Justice to pay a nearly $3 million penalty, plus interest, over mine reclamation work at three sites in eastern Kentucky that was not

completed before deadline.

The judge revoked five of Justice’s permits, including some at mines he’d planned to reopen.

Justice also must pay attorneys fees to the state Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Attorneys for Justice had argued that the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to meet the deadlines for completing the reclamation work.

Western Kentucky city grapples with widespread pollution from Teflon recycler

Nov 8, 2021
Ryan Van Velzer

Back in May of 2020, a food producer was looking at the city of Henderson for a $100 million investment in a city-owned industrial site near the Ohio River. 

For a city in a rural part of western Kentucky, the business was an opportunity to bring tax revenue and an estimated 90 full-time jobs to the community. The company stressed the importance of one thing: clean groundwater. 

But late last year, the company quietly walked away when it learned something officials had been reluctant to share with residents. 

High levels of forever chemicals have seeped into the shallow aquifer beneath the city and are creeping toward the Ohio River.

 

  

Ricki Draper

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released updates to its Tap Water Database on Wednesday. The environmental health nonprofit’s database makes public drinking water systems searchable by zip code. It also shows legal and illegal levels of contaminants and the health risks associated with them. 

But many chemicals found in drinking water are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which sets drinking water safety standards. 

EWG sets its own safety standards for contaminants found in drinking water at levels far lower than what is allowable by law. 

Tasha Stoiber, a scientist with EWG, said many maximum chemical levels are outdated.

LG&E Hikes Rates for Home Heating

Nov 1, 2021
Lisafern/Wikimedia Commons

Ratepayers with Louisville Gas and Electric are going to see higher costs for heating their homes this winter beginning Nov. 1. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts home heating fuels are going to be more expensive this winter across the country due to higher supply costs and a colder winter. 

Louisville Gas & Electric has already asked for and received a quarterly rate adjustment that will increase natural gas rates 33% percent from the same time last year. 

As a result, the average resident using 6,000 cubic feet of gas per month will see their bill increase by about $22.18.

J. Tyler Franklin

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear unveiled a new energy strategy for the state Wednesday without mentioning climate change, its impacts or goals to curb carbon emissions.

The strategy focuses on promoting “all of Kentucky’s energy resources” in order to power and promote growth for a more resilient economy with an emphasis on production, manufacturing and transportation, according to the strategy document.

“The Commonwealth has and will remain an energy hub powering the nation while manufacturing goods for the global marketplace,” Beshear said during the virtual conference on energy and the environment.   

The plan, dubbed “E3” for energy, environment and economic development, used words that nod to the impacts of climate change, but never actually mentions the elephant in the room, or any serious plans to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Appalachian Hydro Associates

Most of the 14 locks and dams along the Kentucky River have been abandoned. But David Brown Kinloch has found a use for one of them. He’s president of Appalachian Hydro Associates and he’s built the state’s first small-scale hydro electric plant in 90 years.

“It’s the smaller sites like the one we just worked at that has the real potential to add a lot of new hydroelectric capacity to help with climate change in the future,” Brown Kinloch said. 

The 2.64 megawatt plant is located at near Ravenna in Estill County and began generating electricity for Berea College in May. The turbines provide enough electricity to power about 1,200 homes and will supply about half of the college’s energy needs on an annual basis. 

“The hydroelectric generating plant shows that local green initiatives like this one can be financially feasible and create reliable sources of income and acceptable rates of return on investment,” said Berea College President Lyle Roelofs in a statement.

Facebook/City of Owensboro

The city of Owensboro and other Kentucky communities are partnering with a steamboat company on an environmental project to protect the Ohio River.

When the American Duchess Riverboat docked in Owensboro this week on its eight-city tour along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, it was more than just an opportunity for passengers to take a stroll and enjoy the music of some of the region’s talented bluegrass musicians.

The stop included an activity for the Community Outreach Project, a collaboration intended to study environmental issues affecting the Ohio River.


Ryan Van Velzer

State utility regulators have upheld the value of rooftop solar and established new rates for net-metering customers with Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities. 

Under the revised rates, LG&E and KU customers who want to put solar on their homes will be credited about 7 cents per kilowatt hour for the excess energy they put back onto the grid, according to last week’s order

That’s less than the one-to-one retail rate LG&E and KU customers received before, but more than the 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour that the utility wanted to pay.

LG&E spokesperson Chris Whelan says that rate is the same as what they would pay for the wholesale cost to produce the power. 

Hayley Lynch, The Nature Conservancy

A partnership of state and federal conservation groups is celebrating the largest lock and dam removal in Kentucky history.

The removal of Green River Lock and Dam # 5 in Butler County has been in the making since 2015, with local government, environmental, and business groups pushing the effort.

A crew from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working since June at the site, using heavy equipment to slowly remove the lock chamber where boats have passed through along the Green River.

An event Monday at the site of the dam was supposed to mark the beginning of the removal of actual dam, but that was postponed due to the rainy weather. 

David Phemister is the director of the Kentucky chapter of The Nature Conservancy, one of the groups that’s advocated for the removal.

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