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Date: 11-20-2017

It’s in the Budget: As the campaigns begin, here’s how elected officials are compensated

A desire to serve the public is what every politician worth his or her salt says drives the pursuit of public office.

But as local politicians begin filing their paperwork this month to run in next year’s races, some stand to make more than others if elected to the position they seek.

While some say public service is it’s own reward, most politicians don’t work for free. Consider the relative compensation one receives for working as a member of the Kentucky General Assembly and for working as, say, a county judge-executive.

According to the Legislative Research Commission’s annual Legislative Gavel publication, members of the House and Senate, by statute, receive $188.22 a day while the legislature is in session. That amount is per calendar day, said LRC spokesman Rob Weber.

Legislators also receive $156.20 per calendar day for living expenses as well as a stationary allowance of $500 for senators and $250 for House members. Between General Assembly sessions, legislators are allotted $1,788.51 a month to maintain an office in their home district, the LRC said.

In even-numbered years such as 2018, there are about 100 calendar days during which the legislature is in session and eight and a half months when it’s not. That translates to about $50,000 per year.

From left, State re. Jill York (R-Grayson), State Rep. Chris Harris (R-Martin Co., and State Senator ray Jones. York and Harris make about $50,000 per year while Jones makes slightly more because he is Minority Leader of the Senate. These figures do not include expenses and special sessions.From left, State re. Jill York (R-Grayson), State Rep. Chris Harris (R-Martin Co., and State Senator ray Jones. York and Harris make about $50,000 per year while Jones makes slightly more because he is Minority Leader of the Senate. These figures do not include expenses and special sessions.

The $50,000 estimate doesn’t include the higher daily salaries of legislative leaders — $225.62 for floor leaders, $235.57 for the Senate president and speaker of the House and $216.88 for the Senate president pro tem, the speaker pro tem of the House and the majority and minority caucus chairmen and whips.

It also excludes payment for interim committee meetings and special sessions, the $18.71 per meeting that committee chairmen receive and the 53.5 cents per mile that legislators receive for driving to and from their home districts at most once per week.

Still, legislative compensation is chump change when compared to that of county officials.

By statute, county judges-executive, county clerks, sheriffs, jailers operating full-service jails and property valuation administrators are compensated in accordance with the size or their counties and their years of service. County Jailers in counties where there is no jail can make up to $20,000 per year but many of them, as in Lawrence, Martin and Magoffin earn much more appointing themselves as transportation directors.

In a county such as Franklin County with between 45,000 and 59,999 people, a first-year county official receives an annual salary of $91,162.69, the LRC says. That increases to $95,214.36 in the second year, $99,266.04 in the third year and a maximum of $103,317.71 in the fourth year.

In Lawrence County, which has a population of 15,863 according to the latest census figures supplied by the Kentucky Association of Counties and the U.S. Census Bureau, salaries are lower than Franklin Co. The chart below shows how much county-wide officials are paid by state statute not counting expenses. They receive $85,085 by the 4th year of their terms. The get an automatic raise each year they are in office for the first four years, but no raises after the first term.

In Martin County, with a population of 12,537 and Magoffin Co., pop. 12,913, the salaries are the same as Lawrence while in Johnson County (pop. 23,262)  the officials receive $3,000 to $6,000 per year more by the time their 4-year term ends.

 

county officials salariescounty officials salaries

 

Alfred Miller
of The State Journal contributed to this story

 

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2017

China Energy's interest in W.Va. natural gas may not necessarily turn into big investment

China Energy, the world's largest power company by asset value, signed a non-binding letter of intent last week to invest $83.7 billion over 20 years to develop West Virginia's natural gas industry, but some remain skeptical that the deal may ever materialize.

China Energy, the world's largest power company by asset value, signed a non-binding letter of intent last week to invest $83.7 billion over 20 years to develop West Virginia's natural gas industry, but some remain skeptical that the deal may ever materialize.China Energy, the world's largest power company by asset value, signed a non-binding letter of intent last week to invest $83.7 billion over 20 years to develop West Virginia's natural gas industry, but some remain skeptical that the deal may ever materialize.

For one thing, "As Bloomberg Intelligence energy analyst Michael Kay points out, not even U.S. energy pipeline giant Kinder Morgan Inc. budgets that much for growth projects. There just isn’t enough infrastructure with high enough returns to make it worthwhile," Emma Ockerman and Lynn Doan report for Bloomberg.

Politicians and companies have been trying to develop an energy hub in Appalachia since shale gas began booming almost a decade ago, but it's still easier and cheaper to drill for gas and use the from the long-existing transport hub on Louisiana's Gulf Coast. Energy companies in the Eastern U.S. also face substantial regulatory hurdles in getting projects approved. "Some project developers have spent over a year waiting for federal approval as landowners and environmentalists there lodge complaints and stage protests. Even as politicians push for more investments, pipeline giants from Energy Transfer Partners LP to Williams Partners LP are being forced to delay projects because of regulatory setbacks and legal challenges," Ockerman and Doan report.

Another pitfall of the China Energy deal is that most of the major infrastructure investments needed for the Appalachian energy market may have already been made. "Enough pipelines are coming online to increase the region’s take-away capacity by about a third. And so much gas-fired power generation has been built in the area that Moody’s Investors Service has warned of 'a gas-driven apocalypse' in the power market," Bloomberg reports. "Later this year, Dominion Energy Inc. will bring online a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Maryland, and an ethane export terminal at Marcus Hook, Pa., is already sending cargoes overseas."

China Energy will need to supply more details before the deal's feasibility can be assessed -- details that the Charleston Gazette-Mail's Ken Ward Jr. says are thin on the ground: "What kinds of natural gas processing plants, pipelines or cracker plants will China Energy Investment Corp. Ltd. build? Where? How many jobs will be provided and how many of them will go to West Virginians? Is the state’s environmental regulatory system up to the task of protecting residents? What about the long-term climate effects of the drive to burn more fossil fuels? Will this kind of investment in natural gas spell an even faster decline for West Virginia’s already struggling coal industry?"

Whether the memorandum of understanding comes to fruition remains to be seen. "At the end of the day what really counts is contracts," Jason Feer, head of business intelligence at Poten & Partners Inc. in Houston, told Bloomberg's Jim Polson. "An MoU is usually an agreement to continue talking."

Written by Heather Chapman

Posted at 11/13/2017 

 

November 9, 2017

West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher (seated at left at the table) meets with China Energy President Ling Wen (seated at right at the table) and other officials Thursday in Beijing in front of President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. W.Va. Department of Commerce photoWest Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher (seated at left at the table) meets with China Energy President Ling Wen (seated at right at the table) and other officials Thursday in Beijing in front of President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. W.Va. Department of Commerce photo

West Virginia has a $83.7 billion investment agreement in place with a China-owned energy company for shale gas and chemical manufacturing projects in the state over the course of 20 years, the state Department of Commerce announced Thursday morning.

Gov. Jim Justice called the deal, a memorandum of understanding, “the largest investment in our state’s history” in a news release, and the deal is the largest of several agreements China made with the United States totaling $250 billion, the release said.

The projects will focus on power generation, chemical manufacturing and underground storage of natural gas liquids and derivatives, the release said.

A memorandum of understanding is a nonbinding business agreement and typically the start of developing a formal agreement. It is “the first step in a series of commitments” between the state and the company, the release said. It was signed by West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and China Energy President Ling Wen on Thursday, the release said.

Specific details of the MOU are limited. Commerce spokeswoman Samantha Smith said a summary of the MOU will be released but when that will be has yet to be determined.

Thrasher said site locations for initial projects have not been finalized, but Brooke and Harrison counties have been tentatively identified as the locations for two natural gas power plants the agreement will factor into, according to a news release from the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Brian Anderson, director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute, said specific projects that come out of the agreement likely will be the subject of due diligence from China Energy. Projects resulting from the deal could locate anywhere in the state, he said, but most likely will land in or between Hancock County and Kanawha County.

Whether the natural gas plants that the Energy Solutions Consortium is developing in those two counties is connected to the MOU was not clear Thursday, but Anderson said the agreement could help advance the development of plants like them.

Smith said development incentives, like tax breaks, have not yet been determined.

The release said China Energy selected West Virginia partly because it features one of the largest known shale gas reserves.

“The massive size of this energy undertaking and level of collaboration between our two countries is unprecedented,” Thrasher said in the release.

China Energy formed through a merger between the Chinese government-owned coal mining company Shenhua Group and energy company Guodian Group, the release said, adding that China Energy is now the world’s largest power company, with more than 200,000 employees.

West Virginia University has been jointly researching coal liquefaction with the Shenhua Group.

In its own news release, WVU said it will work closely with the state government to coordinate the investment.

WVU’s release added that investments also will go toward infrastructure, including electricity from natural gas plants, chemical and polymer manufacturing and high-end chemicals. Much of the deal’s investment will focus on the development of an “Appalachian Storage and Trading Hub,” it said.

State officials, including Thrasher, have long touted the potential of a natural gas storage hub in the state. In a September speech at The Greenbrier resort, in White Sulphur Springs, Thrasher cited a study by the WVU Energy Institute that found three of five plausible hub locations identified are in West Virginia. Several energy companies contributed funding for the study.

Anderson said the investment will help the West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio region become “the second major petrochemical hub in the United States,” the first being in the Gulf Coast region.

Anderson said the West Virginia infrastructure built during the chemical manufacturing heyday in the 1970s made the investment more appealing for China Energy.

Before Thursday’s announcement, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va, had been encouraging an ethane storage hub development in West Virginia. They co-sponsored a bill in June, the Capitalizing American Storage Potential Act, that would make the hub eligible for certain loan guarantee programs, in addition to a bill in May that would call for an assessment of the feasibility of a storage hub in central Appalachia.

The gas storage project is estimated to cost about $10 billion. Proponents say easy access to natural gas products via the hub and pipeline infrastructure would attract investment from the chemical and plastics industry.

John Deskins, WVU’s chief economist, said natural gas storage and downstream activities, such as refining and distribution, are rife with economic potential, adding that one of the biggest questions the state faces in the next 20 years is how much it will develop these industries. But the development of a storage hub takes time, he said, especially in regard to site location and regulatory approvals.

“Keep in mind that this is a long ways away,” Deskins said. “This [MOU] is spread over a 20-year period. Who knows what our state and economy will look like then? But the fact is: This is coming.”

Reach Max Garland at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 304-348-4886 or follow @MaxGarlandTypes on Twitter.

 

Date: 11-12-2017

Saving coal industry could cost you more for electricity; Big Sandy plant already closed for coal, new law no help...

Some power customers may need to be hit with higher electric bills in order to prop up the declining coal-mining industry, the new chairman of a federal energy board said on Thursday.

Chatterjee said he must respond by Dec. 11 to a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for new FERC rules to make sure coal and nuclear plants are fully compensated for the “reliability and resiliency” they contribute to the nation’s power grid.Chatterjee said he must respond by Dec. 11 to a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for new FERC rules to make sure coal and nuclear plants are fully compensated for the “reliability and resiliency” they contribute to the nation’s power grid.

"It would not be a federal subsidy," Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee, a Kentucky native and former adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell, insisted in a conference call with Kentucky reporters.

The extra money to keep coal burning "would come from customers in that region, who need the reliability," he said. "It's in these customers' interests to keep these plants open."

Chatterjee said he must respond by Dec. 11 to a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for new FERC rules to make sure coal and nuclear plants are fully compensated for the “reliability and resiliency” they contribute to the nation’s power grid.

USA TODAY on Oct. 8 reported that Perry argues new regulations are needed because the nation’s electricity grid is threatened with early retirements of power plants that can withstand major fuel supply disruptions caused by natural or man-made disasters.

Perry's move was quickly panned by clean energy advocates who said it was a blatant attempt to prop up coal.

“This is an unprecedented effort to intervene in the electricity marketplace and provide a new subsidy, which ratepayers will foot the bill for, to coal and nuclear power facilities,” Greg Wetstone, president and chief executive officer of the American Council On Renewable Energy, told USA TODAY.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has criticized recent Department of Energy work that fails "to mention the growing threat of climate change to grid reliability and resilience, the important public health and climate benefits of renewable energy, and the enormous subsidies fossil fuels and nuclear power have received for decades."

Climate change does not factor into FERC's decision-making because it's not an environmental regulatory agency, Chatterjee said. But he said keeping carbon-free nuclear power and coal could be "carbon neutral," he added.

Coal has long been one of the nation's leading sources of heat-trapping gases.

Chatterjee said FERC may accept Perry's proposal – which he said has some "challenges" – or develop its own, and offered one as an alternative that would designate certain coal and nuclear plants as essential for grid stability.

Then, customers across a region would pay higher rates to keep those coal and nuclear plants running.

"Certain plants may be under economic pressure, but essential for reliability," Chatterjee said. "We need them because of where they are located," but may need extra compensation "to keep them open."

Details on which plants could get such a designation and how much extra customers would pay would still need to be worked out, he added.

Coal has suffered in large part from a glut of cheap natural gas. But Chatterjee said natural gas plants don't store large reserves of the fuel at their plants, unlike coal and nuclear plants.

The American Gas Association has argued that cheaper natural gas is highly reliable and that a lot of utilities actually do have underground storage for natural gas.

Chatterjee said the idea to designate essential plants for reliability would have little impact on power plants in Kentucky because most are regulated primarily by the Kentucky Public Service Commission. He said some Kentucky residents, however, could see higher rates depending on their regional grid.

It more directly could benefit Kentucky's coal mining industry, which has been flagging in recent years, he said.

The Washington Post on Oct. 19 reported that eight past FERC members including five former chairs oppose Perry's plan, arguing it would disrupt markets and raise the costs of electricity.

Chatterjee said he is looking for an option that would be "legally defensible and doesn’t distort markets."

He said he does not want to "find out down the road we actually needed the coal plants and lost them due to short-term market pressures," noting that coal production is down about 30 percent over the last decade.

President Donald Trump promised to boost coal during his 2016 campaign.


By James Bruggers
Louisville Courier Journal

 

November 5, 2017 

Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover announced he will resign as speaker effective immediately but keep his seat in the House at a press conference Sunday afternoon at the State Capitol.

The press conference came 24 hours after Gov. Bevin called for the resignation of anyone involved in secret coverups of sexual harassment.

BEVIN SAID: "These alleged actions, which haven’t been denied, are reprehensible, indefensible and unacceptable. Any elected official or state employee who has settled a sexual harassment claim should resign immediately," said Gov. Bevin. "The people of Kentucky deserve better. We appropriately demand a high level of integrity from our leaders, and will tolerate nothing less in our state."

Jeff Hoover is shown during a press conference Sunday live streamed by the Courier-JournalJeff Hoover is shown during a press conference Sunday live streamed by the Courier-Journal

The Courier-Journal first reported that Hoover settled an allegation by a woman on his legislative staff related to sexual harassment. Reportedly three other legislators and a staff member were parties to the settlement deal.

Hoover said just Saturday night that he had no plans to resign.

“I am more resolved than ever to continue my work as Speaker thru the 2018 session and I will continue to speak out for all Kentuckians on issues of importance,” he said last night.

Today, he spoke briefly to the press then left without taking questions.

He said that to resolve the dispute between the parties, a meeting held as requested by the complainant and that none of the parties against whom allegations were made admitted that any sexual harassment had taken place. The parties reached an accord and agreed it would remain confidential.

“I engaged in inappropriate sex messaging,” Hoover said emotionally, “. . .it was wrong to do that. God, my family, my wonderful wife and my daughters have forgiven me . . I ask for the people of the Commonwealth for your forgiveness.. .

“At no time did I engage in unwelcome or unwanted contact and at no time was there any sexual engagement.”

Calling himself “a sinner saved by God’s grace,” Hoover said, “I can move forward in my life thanks to my family and my friends. . .I have fallen short.”

He said he will continue to hold his seat in the legislature as long as his constituents want him.

“This is more than being about Jeff Hoover,” he said, and added that resigning as Speaker was best for the legislature so that the state could move ahead.

“There are issues facing this state,” he said, issues that need solutions.”

He went on to say that there “were those who had been plotting for months” to remove him as Speaker because he did not always say what they wanted.

“I have spoken out against some of the pension proposals . . .it’s fair to say I’m not the favorite legislator of some in this Capitol.”

But he means to stay in the House and continue to speak up for what he thinks is right.

“What is best for this Kentucky at this time, what is best for this legislature . . .it’s not about Jeff Hoover . . .

“It’s not about me” — that is not fair to the people of this state . . .and it’s not conducive to getting problems solved.”

He left immediately after speaking and did not take questions from reporters.

 

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