As you probably know, Lexington’s Urban County Council and Mayor asked Kentucky Utilities (KU) last November to collaborate on a vegetation plan for Lexington-Fayette County to give greater protection to trees near power lines than KU’s recently-adopted Vegetation Management Plan. On November 18 the Council adopted Resolution 654-2021, requesting that KU immediately cease all clearcutting of trees under transmission lines until our concerns were adequately addressed. Kentucky Utilities’ current moratorium on implementing their severe tree-clearing policy lasts till the end of March 2022. HB 485 has been introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly to try to convey the wishes of KU customers who object to the current KY plan. A number of Lexington neighborhoods have asked us at Fayette County Neighborhood Council (FCNC) what to do to support the legislation.
HB 485 (https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/22rs/hb485.html) is a nonpartisan bill – Representatives Westrom and Timony from Lexington are the sponsors – that spells out what they consider to be a better process for tree-clearing decisions from electric utilities and the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC). The bill would support all Kentuckians in getting put into practice reasonable plans for the electric utilities’ rights-of-way. It would require electric utilities to have a vegetation management plan with PSC approval in conformance with national safety and arboriculture standards, and to post the plan on their company website. It would require two months’ notification to customers before work is done, periodic public meetings, and an easier process for customers to file complaints or to challenge plans if they do not agree with them. Removing over 25 percent of the tree canopy would require written consent.
Less than half of the 60-day legislative session remains. To support (or object to) HB 485 you can call and leave a message for legislators at 1-800-372-7181, and you can email legislators by going to https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/findyourlegislator/findyourlegislator.html.
Another bill, HB 341 (https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/22rs/hb341.html) would “streamline” the PSC rate-setting process for electric, gas, and water utilities regulated in Kentucky, to institute utility rate hikes as often as once a year for residential, commercial, and industrial customers alike. If you don’t want utilities to be able to ask for more frequent rate increases using a streamlined process, you can include your opposition to HB 341 in your message of support for HB 485. More information is available on HB 341 from the Kentucky Resources Council, who urge opposition to the bill: https://www.kyrc.org/news/center-for-environmental-policy/2022-ga-action-1.
Time is of the essence.
Walt Gaffield, President
Fayette County Neighborhood Council.