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Kentucky editorial roundup

Posted January 4

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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Dec. 27

The Advocate-Messenger of Danville on Gov. Matt Bevin declaring 2017 the "Year of the Bible":

For the second year in a row, Gov. Matt Bevin has proclaimed the new year the "Year of the Bible."

Bevin proclaimed 2016 the Year of the Bible, which was fine. It's a little vague since the Bible is such a large and eclectic book, but then a year-long theme for an entire state probably should be fairly vague. Really, Bevin was acknowledging Kentucky's Christian majority and pandering for support among those who believe there should be less separation between church and state. It wasn't a surprising move for a politician at all, and a mostly harmless one as well.

Now, Bevin has proclaimed 2017 will also be the Year of the Bible, which just seems silly. Any significance the first Year of the Bible may have had is now diluted by Bevin making it painfully clear that it doesn't mean anything at all.

A little creativity could have gone a long way here. Perhaps 2017 could have been the "Year of the Golden Rule," the "Year of Giving Back" or the "Year of Faith." Or there could have been a good governance element to it — how about the "Year of Responsible Spending?" Or it could have been the first in a series of years praising people who help Kentucky function — the "Year of the Teacher" or the "Year of the Firefighter," for example.

There seem to be plenty of options out there that would emphasize the values of Kentucky voters in different and more interesting ways. But instead of something fresh for 2017, Bevin chose to reheat last year's leftovers.

Online: http://www.amnews.com/

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Dec. 28

The Lexington Herald-Leader on climate change:

What will be great for mosquitoes and ticks, potentially disastrous for reindeer and hard on Kentuckians who have asthma and other breathing disorders?

The answer is changes in climate that already have occurred because of heat-trapping gases put into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution by power plants, gasoline vehicles and other human-made sources.

President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a "hoax," but the evidence of global warming's very real effects keeps piling up, from the Arctic to Kentucky, at an even faster pace than scientists have predicted.

Cloaked in darkness, the Arctic is now experiencing a spell of extraordinarily warm winter temperatures, and the extent of Arctic sea ice is the lowest ever recorded.

Sea ice reflects heat from the summer sun back into the atmosphere. The loss of ice contributes to warming oceans, as seawater absorbs heat, and the warming effect is multiplied in a feedback loop as ocean temperatures have climbed. "Such changes mean that a system that was once a vast air conditioner has started to turn into a heater," explains Peter Wadhams, professor emeritus of ocean physics at Cambridge University, who says that with the loss of polar ice we also are losing a force that has stabilized and regulated our climate for thousands of years.

The threat to reindeer and the people who depend on them is that unseasonable rains, spurred by warmer seas, will freeze on top of snow. Reindeer and other animals cannot break through the ice that forms over snow to reach the plants that make up their diet. Siberia has experienced reindeer die-offs.

Closer to home, a study by University of Louisville professor Keith Mountain predicts warmer, wetter weather through 2050, based on an analysis of Louisville temperature and precipitation records going back to 1917.

As one result of shorter, milder winters, "all aspects of biological life can be expected to begin earlier and last longer, affecting the environmental stability that we have come to expect," Mountain told The Courier-Journal's James Bruggers. That includes disease-carrying mosquitoes and ticks and invasive plant species. Hotter, longer summers will mean more days of smog, exacerbating breathing problems.

On the brighter side, evidence also is piling up that we can curb the production of heat-trapping gases without drastically changing our standard of living.

Politico recently reported that the electric sector has already met the 2024 goal in President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and its 2030 target for reducing coal use, according to government data compiled by the Sierra Club. The credit goes not to the president's plan, which the courts have put on hold, but to the widespread transition by electrical utilities from coal to cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas.

While natural gas may be kinder to the climate than coal and serve as a bridge to a cleaner energy future, it's not the answer to controlling climate change because of the large amounts of methane, also a heat-trapping gas that gas and oil production puts into the atmosphere.

Fortunately, wind and solar accounted for two-thirds of all new U.S. power generating capacity in 2015 and are fast becoming as cheap as fossil fuels.

Climate instability will inevitably bring more economic and political instability around the world, as people flee drought, floods and famine. Trump would be smart to abide by the historic climate accord reached a year ago in Paris by the world's nations. Avoiding the most catastrophic effects of climate change is reason enough to support the Paris accord, but firmly establishing this country as the world's leading energy innovator would help Trump deliver on the booming economy he has promised.

Online: http://www.kentucky.com/

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Dec. 29

The Courier-Journal of Louisville on coal ash rules:

The Bevin administration's Energy and Environment Cabinet is proposing a faux regulatory process — "permit by rule" — giving utility companies the freedom to create coal ash ponds and landfills without the need for regulatory review.

This is beyond reckless and puts public health and the environment at risk.

Simply put, utilities needing a coal ash storage pond or landfill would plan the location, design, operating, closure and corrective action standards without the cabinet signing off on plans that meet Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Likewise, there would be no requirement for communities to be notified of a planned site. There would be no opportunity for public input or comment.

A utility would not be required to post a bond to ensure the reclamation was completed. If the site is abandoned, taxpayers would be on the hook for the cleanup.

Coal ash is not regulated as a hazardous waste but that doesn't make it safe. It contains arsenic, selenium, mercury and other pollutants. These can leach into groundwater or become airborne and lead to health problems.

For example, Kristina Zierold, a public health researcher at the University of Louisville, has found evidence that airborne coal ash can increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, high blood pressure, heart attacks, kidney disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The Kingston, Tenn. Disaster happened on Dec. 22, 2008, when a catastrophic failure unleashed coal ash that destroyed three homes, knocked dozens of others off their foundations and caused property damage across about 300 acres while leaving toxic behind toxic waste. The cleanup cost was more than $1 billion.

The CJ's James Bruggers reported that LG&E and KU Energy are among the utility companies embracing the proposals. They say the cabinet's plan would eliminate unnecessary and unproductive regulations.

But utilities should see value in regulatory review because it could offer them a defense if there is a problem.

We understand that there may be regulations in the state that are unnecessary or outdated. It's good to review and kill some of those.

This one is not.

We think there must be a full-blown approval process of the location, design and operation that also includes public notification as well as public comment. Even textbook zoning cases require that the public be notified and given the chance to comment.

In addition, the utilities must post a bond to protect the taxpayers.

Also, existing coal ash ponds and landfills must continue operations under their original permits. Utilities must not be freed from prior permit obligations.

Gov. Matt Bevin wants to cede any authority for formal review of permitting of these toxic sites.

Attorney Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, an environmental advocacy organization, said, "The idea that you are going to allow the generators of waste that contains elevated heavy metals and other pollutants of concern to essentially regulate themselves ... is a recipe for disaster."

Gov. Bevin, Kentuckians don't need a taste of what you're serving.

Online: http://www.courier-journal.com/

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