New Energy and Transition News

Getting ready for Empower Kentucky Summit, September 30-October 1 in Louisville

August 31, 2016 at 05:21pm

UPDATED - September 25, 2016

The Empower Kentucky Summit, which kicks off Friday evening in Louisville, is shaping up to be one of the largest and most diverse gatherings ever in Kentucky focused on ways to build a clean energy economy - one that works for all of us. More than 210 people are coming from communities large and small across our Commonwealth and at least 12 other states!

Registration is still open, so register now and invite your friends. The cost to register is a donation of any size. 

Kentuckians want an energy future that provides good jobs and health, advances racial and economic justice, and reduces the risks and harms of global climate change. This summit is an exciting opportunity to learn about solutions that are already working in communities around the country, and shape progress here at home towards that shared vision. 

The Summit starts 7 to 10 pm on September 30 and continues from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, October 1. 

Madison County Chapter Update: NET Committee

August 25, 2016 at 12:16pm
Madison County

KFTC’s New Energy and Transition (NET) Committee convened on August 8, and celebrated a significant triumph!

TRIUMPH:

EKPC “Community” Solar Farm, KFTC and partner public interest groups played a pivotal role in convincing East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) to pursue a solar farm. On July 21, EKPC requested regulatory approval for a 60 acre, 8.5-megawatt solar farm patterned after the Berea Solar Farm model! If approved, member/customers of EKPC’s 16 distribution cooperatives would be able to purchase 25-year “licenses” at $460, per 335-Watt panel. The solar farm would be located adjacent to EKPC’s headquarters in Winchester. If approved, distribution co-ops like Blue Grass Energy would choose whether, or not to make licenses available to their member/customers. 

When we succeeded in stopping EKPC’s plans to build a new coal-fired power plant a condition of the settlement included the creation of a “clean energy” collaborative among EKPC, its sixteen distribution co-ops, KFTC and our partner public interest groups. Co-op staff were skeptical that their member/customers had interest in renewable energy because their EnviroWatts program, which adds a charge to participating customers’ bills to help support EKPC’s landfill gas generation, had low levels of participation. We were able to convince the utilities that the EnviroWatts model was the problem; that a Berea Solar Farm type of model would have appeal that the EnviroWatts model could not match. 

Members Tona Barkley and our own chapter’s Steve Wilkins represented KFTC in the collaborative. Two other Madison County chapter members, Steve Boyce and Josh Bills, were instrumental in bringing the Berea Solar Farm to life. The Berea Solar Farm and its approach to community solar gave EKPC a model that they could run with to create their own, much bigger version. Let’s celebrate! 

[There are many types of “community” solar. While the EKPC model keeps all assets on the utility’s side of the meter, there are other community solar farm models that democratize electric power by putting farms within the communities that use power from them. These farms are on the customer’s side of the electric meter.]

Letcher Countians speak out against proposed federal prison

April 8, 2016 at 10:41am

Last year, Congress approved funding for a new maximum security federal prison in Letcher County – the only new federal prison in the nation. The estimated preliminary cost of construction is $460 -$510 million. Rep. Hal Rogers has touted the prison as the main economic engine in eastern Kentucky. 

In Letcher County, we have so much potential, and with the right investments could create local economic engines that serve our land and our people. The Letcher County KFTC Chapter does not believe that this prison offers the economic development that Letcher County deserves.

Local residents are joining together to voice concerns about the prison. Chapter members have formed a work team to participate and to highlight alternative economic drivers that would support a just transition for our region.

On April 1, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced that it was forced to re-open a public comment period for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the prison in Letcher County after facing multiple shortcomings, including violations of public notice requirements, in its "Final EIS" released last July. A 30-day window is now open on a Revised Final EIS.

Mitch Whitaker, a local resident, recently had an op-ed published in the Lexington Herald-Leader about his concerns. Check it out, below, and keep on the lookout for more.

Big Sandy chapter hosts seventh annual Growing Appalachia conference

April 7, 2016 at 11:17am


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On Saturday March 5, folks from around eastern Kentucky came out to the Jenny Wiley Convention Center near Prestonsburg for the seventh annual Growing Appalachia conference, which is a day of workshops about small-scale farming, energy efficiency and renewables.

Look what KFTC members did in 2015

March 29, 2016 at 01:58pm

KFTC members did some amazing work in 2015.

We took our climate justice work to the world stage at the COP21 climate talks in Paris, helped pass a minimum wage increase in Lexington, and moved the needle on voting rights. And in communities across Kentucky, we raised our voices for renters’ rights, environmental protection, racial justice and more.

We’re pleased to share with you the 2015 KFTC Annual Report.

You’ll see lots of faces and some important wins. And you’ll see the New Power we’re building together to achieve the Kentucky we envision.

Hope you enjoy it! Thanks for your part in making 2015 great.

Community conversations will help shape Empower Ky. Plan

March 1, 2016 at 05:13pm

Kentuckians will have the opportunity this spring to help shape a new Empower Kentucky Plan to map out an energy future for Kentucky that grows jobs, benefits health and addresses racial and economic inequality while doing our part to reduce the risks of climate change.

The Empower Kentucky Plan will be informed by diverse public input, including ideas generated at a series of “A Seat at the Table” community conversations hosted by Kentuckians For The Commonwealth in April and May.

Comment | Make Ky. healthier with renewable energy

February 17, 2016
The Courier-Journal

Imagine if we replaced coal with cleaner sources of energy that drastically reduce the chances of our loved ones suffering from a deadly lung disease. Solar and other renewable forms of energy do not emit carbon dioxide or other pollutants that eat away at our lungs and harm the planet.

What’s next after U.S. Supreme Court delays Clean Power Plan?

February 11, 2016 at 09:10am

In a highly unusual move, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to issue a stay on implementation of the Clean Power Plan. The federal rule, which was issued by the U.S. EPA last summer, aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector. The court’s order halts the Clean Power Plan from taking effect until a legal challenge to the rule filed by more than two dozen states and many fossil fuel interests is resolved.

Dana Beasley Brown

The decision was an unprecedented procedural ruling – not a determination about the merits or validity of the rule – that temporarily pushes the pause button until the larger legal issues are considered and resolved. In fact, in its one page order, the Court did not provide its reasons for issuing the stay. According to an article in the New York Times, the Supreme Court has never before granted a request to halt a regulation before its review by a federal appeals court. The justices themselves did not take long to consider the details of this complicated case. Final legal briefs from the parties defending the rule were filed on Thursday afternoon; the court’s position was announced the following Tuesday.

The broader legal case about the validity of the Clean Power Plan rule is expected to move forward on an expedited timeline, but even so it could take as long as two years to reach a final resolution. The DC Circuit Court is scheduled to hear the case on June 2, 2016. It will likely issue a ruling by the fall of 2016. Regardless of that outcome, the issue is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court issues another stay and takes the case, it could rule as early as the spring of 2017 or as late as the following spring. Only then could the EPA move forward to enforce the rule, if it is ultimately upheld.

Early reactions news from KFTC members and allies across the country made it clear that people working for a just transition and climate justice are troubled but undaunted by this decision.

“I’m so glad we called this part of KFTC’s work ‘Empower Kentucky,” because that’s exactly what we are doing, and what we continue to do,” reflected KFTC’s chairperson Dana Beasley Brown shortly after the news broke on Tuesday evening.

 “Our work has to go on,” said Lexington KFTC member Chris Woolery. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy are no-regrets solutions that literally pay for themselves. That’s the direction the world is moving. That’s where jobs are booming. And that’s the kind of leadership Kentuckians want. But we can’t wait for our leaders. We have to move on without them.”

The day after the court ruling, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet announced it was suspending plans to hold public hearings this spring about ways Kentucky might comply with the Clean Power Plan. In contrast, KFTC’s public engagement process will ramp up this spring, including public meetings in each congressional district.

 “This gives us more time to build an even better Empower Kentucky plan and keep pushing forward,” reflected Steve Wilkins of Berea. “Unfortunately, some states like Kentucky may take this as an excuse to sit on their hands and do nothing. If so, we’ll just keep falling further and further behind. The gap will just grow wider between us and leading states that are making smart investments in clean energy. It seems nobody in a position of power has a vision for a new Kentucky. With a few exceptions, they are all looking backwards. We deserve better.”

 In many ways, the court ruling doesn’t change the important work in front of us here in Kentucky. KFTC members already knew that making meaningful progress on clean energy will require long-term, creative, and determined organizing to change the conversation and build political will. In fact, that’s what the Empower Kentucky project is all about.

In announcing the project last fall, KFTC member Elizabeth Sanders said, “It won’t be easy to transform the ways we generate and use energy in Kentucky. Our economic, energy and political systems have long been shaped by fossil fuels, especially coal … We will not wait for our politicians to do the right thing … We are Kentuckians. We are our best hope for change. And together we will write a plan ourselves to make our communities more livable, strengthen our economy and support a just transition while meeting or exceeding the Clean Power Plan’s goals for cutting climate pollution.”

 Empower Kentucky will take a major step forward in April, when KFTC will host a series of community conversations in each congressional district. These forums are an opportunity for Kentuckians to learn and share ideas about the energy future we want to see. Public input from those meetings – along with additional ideas gathered through an on-line survey, interviews and listening sessions – will help inform KFTC’s Empower Kentucky plan.

A schedule of the April events, which are open to the public, will be announced soon.

Lawmakers can energize Ky.’s economy

January 28, 2016
Lexington Herald-Leader

Kentucky’s House economic development committee heard on Thursday that the clean-energy industry added 3,159 jobs in North Carolina last year and now employs 26,000 people; then the committee approved a bill authorizing new tax incentives for the coal industry in Kentucky.

Congressman Rogers hears eastern Kentuckians' call for just transition, introduces RECLAIM Act

February 3, 2016 at 02:51pm

A strong grassroots movement toward just transition in eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia, including major federal investment in the region, has resulted in new legislation.

Carl Shoupe sends Congressman Hal Rogers the resolutions that were passed by local governments asking him to support the POWER+ Plan. Carl is a retired coal miner, member of KFTC, and member of the Benham Power Board, which passed a resolution in August 2015.Today U.S. Representative Hal Rogers introduced the RECLAIM Act (Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More). The bipartisan bill aims to accelerate the use of $1 billion in funding in the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Fund to help revitalize coal communities hardest hit by the downturn of the coal industry.