The2nd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment was held on Friday, August 28, 2009, at 9:30 AM, at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. Senator Tom Jensen, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Tom Jensen, Co-Chair; Representative Jim Gooch Jr., Co-Chair; Senators Ray S. Jones II, Dorsey Ridley, Brandon Smith, Gary Tapp, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives Hubert Collins, Tim Couch, Keith Hall, Tim Moore, Don Pasley, Kevin Sinnette, Fitz Steele, Jim Stewart III, and Robin L. Webb.
Guests: Charles Baird, Action Now; Dr. Karen Alexy and Darin Moore, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
LRC Staff: Tanya Monsanto, Stefan Kasacavage, D. Todd Littlefield, Taylor Moore, Susan Spoonamore, and Kelly Blevins.
Sen. Jensen recognized Rep. Keith Hall for a roll call of members of the Special Subcommittee on Energy. After gaining a quorum, the July minutes for both the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment and the Special Subcommittee on Energy were approved. Rep. Hall recognized Mr. Jim Baird who spoke on behalf of Action Now, an organization that promotes coal education and policy issues. Mr. Baird discussed the relationship of coal to cheaper energy in Kentucky. There is an effort to redistribute the cost of energy across the nation. Kentucky is a single industry economy and it is predicated on coal. Coal miners can earn $60,000 to $100,000 per year and this helps the coal mining region of the state. Mr. Baird also discussed mine safety issues. He stated that compared to other industries, coal mining has fewer deaths. Coal mining is safer than other noncoal industries but the risks are overly dramatized in the press. Then Mr. Baird discussed problems with obtaining mining permits. He said that Commissioner Campbell is doing a good job but there are still too few employees in the permit section. The industry has agreed that it is good to raise fees, but everyone must ensure that the additional cost is devoted to paying permit reviewers. Finally, Mr. Baird discussed the number of inspections in the coal industry. This places an undue burden on the mines. Related to that issue is the mine rescue teams, which Mr. Baird described as the best in the nation, but the training requirements for those teams could be augmented to better serve both training and inspection requirements.
Rep. Hall interjected that Kentucky’s mine safety teams are made up of state employees but inquired as to what happened with the Miner Act that has placed these teams in jeopardy. Mr. Baird followed stating that Kentucky offered an amendment to the Miner Act which allowed the state teams to qualify for the training requirements. However the amendment was blocked and the intent, Mr. Baird concluded, was to eliminate some small operators which represent some 64% of the mines in the state.
Rep. Hall concurred and asked about the plan for mine safety. Mr. Baird stated that the industry is looking at retirees as personnel and finding funding for them. However there is a problem of double inspections between the state and federal level.
Sen. Jones stated that the double inspections have led to some operators going out of business. Mr. Baird explained that not everyone on staff is a miner; some are emergency mine technicians (EMTs). Then Mr. Baird discussed climate change and the impact of cap and trade on the economy. He recommended that staff study cap and trade; evaluate its impact on the Kentucky economy; evaluate the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing, and sit down with industry to figure out how to make the state better.
Sen. Jensen stated that there may be legislation to address these issues in January. Rep. Gooch stated that he wanted to review the mine safety laws and to know exactly what is involved with a general inspection.
Then Sen. Jensen introduced Darin Moore and Dr. Karen Alexy to discuss a study conducted pursuant to House Joint Resolution 130. This study examined ways to reduce vehicle collisions with deer. The department spent a year working with the Transportation Cabinet and made a series of recommendations.
Dr. Alexy provided a quick summary of the study’s highlights. The deer population has stabilized in part from thinning the herds by hunters. Deer-vehicle collisions have reduced in part to the herd reductions. The department created zones for intensifying deer reductions. To date, the department is conducting deer public meetings to get the public involved in managing the problem. The message is that when deer are active in the fall, drivers must be more vigilant. The department investigated counter measures such as deer crossings, plantings on roadsides, fertilizers as deer repellent, and fencing. None of those measures had good success; now the department is looking at bow hunting along highways.
Rep. Collins mentioned the regulations on the agenda pertaining to elk permits. Mr. Darin Moore commented that there is an elk depredation hunt. The hunt will be expanded and the permits will be drawn from the elk zone residents only. The hunt will begin in 2010.
Rep. Couch asked about the procedures for the deer draw and whether it should mirror those for the elk depredation hunt. Dr. Alexy replied that there are differences between the two hunts. The department has evaluated different systems such as preference points and if implemented the chance of getting drawn is very low. The department is concerned that expectations would be soured towards hunting in Kentucky because the odds of being drawn would change for the worse.
Rep. Couch commented that paralleling the two systems would be better. Dr. Alexy responded that the department is examining bonus points and other ways to improve the odds and help local hunters. The department is also looking at re-entry restrictions after having been drawn.
Rep. Riner asked if the department is taking measures to stimulate interest in hunting from populations in urban areas where there is no history of hunting. Dr. Alexy replied yes.
Then, Sen. Jensen thanked the Fish and Wildlife staff and asked members of the Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) to give a brief update on Senate Joint Resolution 67. Brandon Nuttall with KGS discussed a well site drill in Hancock County where CO2 was successfully injected into the well. It is shut in while KGS applies to the Department of Energy to further test the well and hope to receive further funding. He also stated that work continues on SJR 67 to assess state-owned lands for oil and gas. The GAPS system is in good shape and he noted they are trying to integrate the data and finish the report by December.
Sen. Jensen asked if the test in Hancock County was carbon sequestration. Mr. Nuttall replied yes. Rep. Adkins mentioned that the test was a part of House Bill 1; it was a requirement to conduct a study. The General Assembly used 1.5 million to do an 8.3 million dollar project. He then asked Mr. Nuttall if KGS did another test in Hopkins County. Mr. Nuttall replied yes, it was at Sugar Creek Field in Hopkins County. They injected water first to demonstrate that the field would take fluids. It went into the Knox formation to ensure that the CO2 would inject. They then injected 323 tons or 4 barrels of CO2 per minute. Rep. Akins followed that this is cutting edge research and asked when KGS will conduct east Kentucky projects. Mr. Nuttall replied that they are seeking funding from United States Department of Energy and then they will drill a well. He noted there will be a devonian shale test and the results will be published in September.
Rep. Gooch commended KGS and asked Deputy Secretary List to comment. Secretary List stated that mining issues can be addressed by putting together a working group comprised of leaders in the coal industry and the cabinet. He also agreed that Kentucky’s mine rescue teams are the best in the nation and that policy needs to be continued.
Rep. Webb then addressed the committee stating that it was her last meeting as a representative after being elected to the Senate. She addressed the difficulties of the election and commented on the importance of having served on the Natural Resources and Environment committee.
There being no further business the committee adjourned to tour a local coal mining site.