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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Lawmakers in coal-producing Kentucky voted Wednesday to lift a ban on building nuclear power plants in a move one detractor called a “kick in the teeth” to the slumping coal sector.
The House passed the bill 65-28, sending it to Gov. Matt Bevin. The Republican governor has signaled he would not veto the measure if it reached his desk.
For years, efforts to open the door to nuclear energy melted down in a state that has been culturally and economically dominated by coal. Kentucky is the country’s third-largest coal producer, and politicians from both parties have promised to revive the struggling industry.
But the measure is on the verge of becoming law in Kentucky’s first legislative session in memory where Republicans controlled the House, Senate and governor’s office.
The bill’s House supporters said Wednesday it would take a decade or more for developers to get a nuclear power plant operational in Kentucky due to the rigorous permitting process.
But that didn’t satisfy Republican Rep. Jim Gooch Jr., who represents some of western Kentucky’s coalfields. Gooch invoked coal’s historic role in powering the state and the sector’s deep slump while speaking out against the measure.
“While I don’t really believe that this bill does that much to really affect coal, I think it’s a kick in the teeth that our coal industry shouldn’t be facing right now,” he said.
Kentucky’s coal industry has been steadily declining for decades. Coal mining employment has fallen from 31,000 in 1990 to just over 6,300. Three years ago, coal-fired power plants provided 93 percent of the state’s electricity. Today, that has fallen to 83 percent, according to the Kentucky Coal Association, as older plants are being shut down and replaced by natural gas.
The bill lifting the decades-old moratorium has been pushed by local government and business leaders in western Kentucky, which was home to a uranium enrichment plant that closed in 2013. That left the area teeming with skilled workers who had no hope of employment in their field.
Western Kentucky lawmakers who shepherded the bill through the House said lifting the moratorium won’t result in any immediate nuclear power plant construction.
“There is no expectation that the commonwealth will have a nuclear reactor constructed in it anytime soon,” said Republican Rep. Steven Rudy. “Should this bill become law, as a matter of fact, it will take a decade or more, probably decades, before an applicant could possibly wade through the regulatory environment before bringing a reactor online.”
Kentucky is one of 15 states that restrict the construction of new nuclear power facilities, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The bill requires Kentucky officials to review the state’s permitting process to ensure costs and “environmental consequences” are taken into account.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 10, 2017) – The Senate gave final passage to a measure this week to expand the state’s broadband access by codifying the Kentucky Communications Network Authority (KCNA). Created through an executive order, KCNA is responsible for managing the Commonwealth’s open-access broadband network known as KentuckyWired. KentuckyWired’s focus is to position Kentucky as a national leader in high-capacity internet services.
House Bill 343, sponsored by Rep. Larry Brown, R-Prestonsburg, will specifically help rural communities that do not have access to a broadband network.
“Through these changing times, internet access is imperative to the success of our rural communities,” said Rep. Brown. “We continue to work to diversify Eastern Kentucky’s economy, and KentuckyWired will not only allow that diversification to proceed, but grow our tourism, advance higher education, improve healthcare access, and better the overall lives of Kentuckians. I commend the General Assembly for swiftly passing this measure and supporting the advancements of Eastern Kentucky.”
Kentucky currently ranks near the bottom of national and international rankings of broadband capacity, putting our state at a major disadvantage for attracting jobs and expanding education. The KCNA, through KentuckyWired, will better the Commonwealth by promoting economic growth and drastically improving our quality of life.
The bill is headed to Governor Bevin’s desk for his signature.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2017
Social media limits exposure to different viewpoints and hurts democracy and journalism, Harvard University law professor and author Cass Sunstein told NPR's Kelly McEvers on "All Things Considered." Sunstein's latest book, "#Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media," looks at how social media creates echo chambers, leading to news filters where people only look at news that reflects their ideals.
"You're listening to people who just agree with you or reading news sources that fit with your own preconceptions, it's not as if you just stay where you are," Sunstein said. "You tend to end up more extreme, which makes us get kind of blocked as a society, which isn't good for democracy and which makes it possible for people to see people who disagree with them not as fellow citizens, but as enemies who are crazy people or dupes. And that can make problem solving very, very challenging."
"Well, we're early days, really, still for Facebook and social media," he said. "And so my expectation is that Facebook and Twitter will do some experimenting on this count. It is true that kind of a quick reaction is provide people with content that they will look at. And that might be the information cocoon effect. But lots of Americans have not just a desire to see, you know, what they already think, but a desire to see some stuff that'll be challenging or eye-opening."
Sunstein suggests following people with different viewpoints. He said, "if you're left of center, have a little plan in the next two weeks to follow some smart people who are right of center. And if you're right of center, and you tend to ridicule or contempt for people on the left, follow some liberals. Find some who have at least a little bit of credibility for you. Or make a determined judgment whether you're left or right. See what you can get from the other side. And this is, you know, individual lives, but as the framers of the constitution knew, a republic is built up of innumerable individual decisions. And whether we get a well-functioning system or not depends on, you know, countless individual acts." (Read more)
Written by Tim Mandell Posted at 2/23/2017 11:25:00 AM