Call to Order and Roll Call
The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment was held on Thursday, August 5, 2010, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Brandon Smith, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Brandon Smith, Co-Chair; Senators David E. Boswell, Ray S. Jones II, Bob Leeper, John Schickel, Katie Kratz Stine, and Gary Tapp; Representatives Hubert Collins, Tim Couch, Keith Hall, Stan Lee, Reginald Meeks, Tim Moore, Don Pasley, Marie Rader, Kevin Sinnette, Fitz Steele, Jim Stewart III, and Jill York.
Guests: Leah MacSwords, Division of Forestry; Betty Williamson, Kentucky Woodland Owners Association; Dr. John Obrycki, University of Kentucky Department of Entomology; Bob Bauer, Kentucky Forest Industries Association; Johnny Greene and Greg Goins, Office of Mine Safety and Licensing.
Division of Forestry, Kentucky Statewide Assessment and Strategy
After a motion and a second, the July 1, 2010 minutes were approved. Leah McSwords, Director of the Division of Forestry discussed the Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources and Strategy which was a mandated report under the 2008 US Farm Bill. The assessment must include conditions, themes, threats, resources, and interstate issues. It must also set priorities, create strategies and describe the resources available in each state. The National Association of State Foresters provided a $31,000 grant for the study.
In Kentucky, the top 5 issues are forest health, water quality and quantity, forest loss and fragmentation, forest management and a compilation of various issues such as mountaintop removal, fire, climate change, and public access. Kentucky suffers from several problems such as invasive species including plants such as kudzu and insects, such as the emerald ash borer, and Kentucky has plant disease problems, particularly the chestnut blight. In response to a question regarding insects to control kudzu, Ms. McSwords replied the Division of Forestry works with private landowners to identify the kudzu and develop a control plan. There is no overall program for the eradication of kudzu.
Ms. McSwords discussed reintroduction of the American chestnut tree. In response to a question about chestnut blight, Ms. McSwords stated that there are two approaches to developing the tree stock. One can use disease resistant trees by finding naturalized disease resistant American chestnuts in Kentucky or by hybridizing the American chestnut with a more blight resistant Chinese chestnut tree. A problem has been that some blight resistant trees that are planted live a few years and then die.
In response to a question on measuring the effectiveness of the goals and strategy in the statewide assessment, Ms. McSwords replied that effectiveness is measured in conjunction with the funds available to achieve those goals. The Division has five years to create positive outcomes, and the advantage of the assessment is in the coordination achieved with partners. This ensures that money is spent effectively. Finally, Ms. McSwords discussed “legacy forest” issues. These are areas that are purchased for easement restrictions on development. Purchases are made either through conservation easements or fee simple. The lands are set aside; however, the program depends on federal funding.
Legislative Recommendations by Kentucky Woodland Owners Association
Ms. Betty Williamson representing the Kentucky Woodland Owners Association and Dr. John Obrycki, Kentucky State Forester updated the committee on several forestland issues. Ms. Williamson discussed the importance of managing woodlands for education and outreach; protecting forests from invasive species; developing timber marketing tools; and promoting certified forests to demonstrate to the global market that Kentucky develops forests in a sustainable fashion. In response to a question about why there is need to promote certified forests, Ms. Williamson stated that the public is simply unaware of the program. It is a commonsense activity and the lack of participation stems more from ignorance than from a fear of government intrusion.
In response to a question regarding timber theft, Ms. Williamson replied that a trace only occurs if the person is a participant in a certified forest program. Otherwise, there is no requirement in Kentucky to show where the timber came from. There is a need to strengthen the “bad actor” program which is used to deter repeat offenders from being able to engage in logging operations and to develop legislation to deal with arson, incentives for woody biomass, and the creation of a timber theft unit in the Division of Forestry.
In response to a question regarding the number of Kentucky forestland owners, Ms. Williamson stated that a woodland owner is one with 10 acres or more of woodland and a certified forest is one that is certified according to guidelines developed by the American Tree Farm System. Ms. McSwords added that the certification programs are not government programs and participation is voluntary. There is a fee to participate, a sustainability plan, and an audit for compliance. Ms. Williamson continued stating there are tax breaks and cost-share dollars for participating in the certified forest program and having a forest management plan.
Update on Emerald Ash Borer
Dr. John Obrycki discussed the program for evaluating the infestation by the emerald ash borer. Purple traps have been set across the state and will be removed to determine the number of captures. There were no new finds of infestation in Kentucky during 2010 and there is a quarantine zone established in the state. However, the insects were found in Tennessee and the Office of the State Forester is working with the federal government in determining whether a statewide quarantine is necessary. In response to a question regarding whether the infestations are urban or rural, Dr. Obrycki stated they include both areas. There are about 5 to 6 thousand traps across the state. We will release tiny wasps which are natural enemies to the beetles. In response to a question about the color of the traps and whether the wasps will become invasive species, Dr. Obrycki stated the beetles are attracted to the color purple more so than other colors and the wasps will not become an invasive species because their numbers grow and decline with the population of beetles.
Legislative Recommendation on the Bad Actor Problems in the Forest Industry
Bob Bauer, representing Kentucky Forest Industries, made a recommendation for increasing collection of fines levied on repeat bad actors in the logging industry. The process for imposing a fine is already very long. It is a four step process. The problem is that there are very few repeat offenders that have been closed down or have experienced any real financial hardship. It takes two months to go through the process, and half of the operations have not been inspected in four years. We want them to have a date certain by which to pay fines and penalties or enter into a payment plan. If they are not paid, then the operator will have the license revoked. The idea is simple.
In response to a question about use of money derived from fines and penalties, Mr. Bauer stated the money is paid into the Kentucky Forest Stewardship Incentives Fund. The fund is used to provide cost-share dollars for forest landowners who want a forest management plan. Continuing, Mr. Bauer stated that bad actor legislation will also curb the number of trespass and timber thieves. These tend to be the same individuals. In response to a series of questions about the master logger program, Mr. Bauer commented that private landowners can cut as many board feet of timber without limit and without being required to have a master logger on site. There is a list of fines for each type of violation and the maximum is $1,000 but the actual fine imposed will depend on the severity of the violation. The fine is set at the discretion of the cabinet.
Ms. Leah McSwords added that the fine only comes into play during the administrative hearing process and that is after many stages in the violation process. In response to questions regarding the value of certified timber and the role of inspectors, Ms. McSwords stated that certified timber is more valuable and depends on what the market wants. State inspectors do a variety of jobs beyond inspections. They also act as forest rangers.
Findings and Recommendations of the Mine Equipment Review Panel
Mr. Johnny Greene, Director of the Office of Mine Safety and Mr. Greg Goings, Deputy Chief Accident Investigator presented the findings and recommendations of the Mine Equipment Review Panel. Mr. Greene stated that the panel recommends rollover protection and falling object protection on excavators used at mine sites. Excavators are increasingly being used on slopes and in areas where there are falling objects. There were 4 roll over injuries between 2004 and 2010 and one fatality in 2007.
The reason that there has not been roll over protection required in the past is that standards were just developed in 2008 because the coal industry thought that the booms would protect the operator. However, the operator compartment is not sound enough to prevent injury or death. Mr. Greene recommended a revision to the Kentucky Administrative Regulations that would require rollover protection if necessary. In response to questions regarding operator error and whether other states have imposed similar requirements, Mr. Greene stated that Kentucky would be the first to impose rollover protection requirement and the cost would be built into the price of the new equipment coming out in 2011. Retrofits would be expensive.
After a motion and a second, the committee adjourned at 3:00 P.M.