Month: October 2017

Gov. Matt Bevin Explains Pension Plan, Special Session ‘Soon’

FRANKFORT, Ky – Governor Matt Bevin tells Kentucky Living he will call a special session of the Kentucky General Assembly “soon” to vote on his plan to save and overhaul the commonwealth’s beleaguered public pension systems.

“I really want to make sure people have in their hands the actual details they need, the legislators in particular, the people who are voting on it,” Bevin said in an interview at the Governor’s Mansion.

One week ago, Bevin, Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Jeff Hoover unveiled the “Keeping the Promise” plan, which pledges to meet the traditional “defined benefit” obligations owed to current and retired teachers and public servants while creating a “defined contribution” retirement system for future workers.

“We are at the front edge of trying to come up with a solution,” Bevin told Kentucky Living. “And I believe that what we’ve put forward, while it will take 30 years, it will get us out of the other end of the tunnel and it will become a model for other states to follow because they really don’t have an alternative.”

Kentucky’s three major public pension systems — Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS), Teachers’ Retirement System of Kentucky (TRS), and the Kentucky Judicial Form Retirement System (KJFRS) — collectively administer eight distinct retirement plans.

Kentucky’s $64 billion unfunded pension liability ranks as the worst funded system in the nation. Experts cited by the Bevin administration conclude that the Kentucky Employee Retirement System, Non-Hazardous, will run completely out of money by the year 2022 if meaningful pension reform does not occur.

“If we allow that hole to become so deep that we are ultimately forced by some lawsuit to fill it, it will come at the expense of everything else that people want,” Bevin explained, “which is why it has to be addressed before we become in a crisis mode.”

Kentucky’s credit rating is continuously downgraded because of the shortfall, Bevin added, making it more difficult to borrow money and undermining efforts to recruit businesses to Kentucky.

“If this was a private pension plan, the federal government, by IRS statute, by law, would have shut them down years ago,” the governor said. “We are in horrific shape.”

Asked about concerns of teachers and school superintendents about how the pension changes would affect educators and the education system, Bevin insisted there is “very little sacrifice for those in the system.”

“And for those not yet in the system,” Bevin continued, “they shouldn’t have an assumption of what’s going to be available for them.”

“This is a big problem for the entire state,” Bevin said, “and for any one group, any one interest or organization to think that they should be untouched and everyone else should pay the sacrifice, I think is inappropriate.”

The pending pension changes could be a prelude to yet another special session of the legislature to address another pressing issue for Kentucky, tax reform.

“Possibly. We’ll see,” Bevin replied. “If we can’t get tax reform done as part of this budget session, and we may or not be able to, it may or may not make sense, then, yes, I would do another special session to address that because we’ve got to update and modernize our tax code. It’s very antiquated. It’s counter-productive, we exempt more monies than we take in, everybody knows that, as well.”

The governor said he is up for the challenge, and that anyone else in elected office should be, as well.

“I’m at the parade too, but I’m the guy with the shovel behind the elephant,” Bevin said. “While everyone’s enjoying the show, my job and that of our current legislature is to clean up the mess for those that have preceded us. We’re going to clean it up and we’re going to make Kentucky shine.”

EPA Plan Threatens Affordability And Reliability Of Kentucky’s Electricity

“Clean Power Plan” published in Federal Register on Friday

The member-owners of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives stand to pay a disproportionate price for the changes required in the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan” (CPP), published in the Federal Register on Friday.

Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are not-for-profit, member-owned entities which serve more than 1.5 million people (about 35% of the state’s population) in 117 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.  All costs are paid by members.  Cooperatives serve some of the most remote areas of the commonwealth, where members are often the least able to afford rate increases.

The EPA plan targets coal, the main source of Kentucky’s electricity, in new and aggressive limits on carbon emissions.  About 90 percent of electricity generated in Kentucky is by coal fired power plants.  The CPP fundamentally changes how electricity is generated, distributed and consumed in the United States.

“The new limits in the plan are impossible to achieve with our current fleet of generators,” said Chris Perry, President and CEO of Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives (KAEC).  “The time frame is inconsistent with time needed to build alternative sources. This makes the potential great for increased costs and potential reliability problems.”

In the last decade, the two main suppliers of electricity to cooperative customers, East Kentucky Power Cooperative and Big Rivers Electric Corporation, have invested more than $2 billion in coal assets.  These are 20- to 30-year investments.

Cooperative member-owners face compounded costs under the Clean Power Plan:

  • cost of the electricity as generated, including construction of new plants
  • cost to pay for debt of prematurely retired coal-fired plants as non-producing stranded assets
  • cost to pay carbon credits to other states which have an easier burden under the CPP

In 2013, Kentucky had the 3rd most electricity-intensive economy in the U.S., based on electricity consumption per state GDP dollar.

Kentucky has lost one-quarter of its manufacturing jobs since 2000.  The Kentucky Energy & Environment Cabinet estimates a ten percent increase in the cost of electricity would trigger a loss in Kentucky of almost $2 billion GDP.

The CPP assumes an increased dependence on natural gas, a commodity which is also used in residential heating, making it prone to price volatility and supply concerns.  The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) projects a 30 percent increase in demand for natural gas, straining availability during periods of heavy demand, such as in extreme heat or cold.

While coal-fired power plants generally keep 30- to 45-day coal stockpiles, natural gas – by its nature – is not stored, but conveyed by pipelines in a “just-in-time” delivery model.  While the coal supply has redundant delivery channels, the natural gas supply is limited to one or two pipelines.

In addition, the NERC report on potential reliability impacts of the Clean Power Plan questions whether adequate equipment (e.g., generators, solar panels, wind facilities, transformers, and conductors) and resources (e.g., engineering, procurement, and construction) will be available to support the plan’s requirements.

Though Kentucky’s electric cooperatives support the coalition of 24 states and energy companies who filed suit today to challenge the regulatory package, cooperatives will comply with federal mandates and have a fiduciary responsibility to plan accordingly, even while courts contemplate whether to vacate the regulations.

Attracting Jobs, Industry To Rural America

Kentucky takes center stage at economic development conference

Like a championship coach opening his playbook for other teams, Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are sharing the secrets of their economic development success with economic development professionals from across the country at a major conference in Louisville later this month.

“We are helping our communities make the very best impression they can, because it means jobs and investment for Kentucky,” said Rodney Hitch, economic development manager for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.

Using ground-breaking tools to showcase Kentucky’s resources to industries looking to expand or relocate, Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives have been involved in economic development projects that resulted in 7,000 jobs and over $2 billion in investment for Kentucky.

Last month, the International Economic Development Council awarded the Kentucky team the Excellence In Economic Development Award for New Media at the organization’s annual conference in Toronto.

“We want to share real world experiences and technologies,” said Brad Thomas, associate manager of economic development.

Thomas is among more than a dozen speakers scheduled to address the EUCI conference October 23-24 in Louisville, Economic Development Best Practices within Electric Cooperative & Municipal Utility Communities.

Other presenters include Statebook International, Powersouth Energy Cooperative, Denton Municipal Electric and more, discussing how to leverage numerous economic development tools. The conference will review rural development programs, and assess how to respond to communities’ demands for efficient and renewable energy and site readiness to help “close the deal.”

“The integrated design of the cooperative and municipal utility business model grants the opportunity for this industry to help better serve the communities for which they provide power,” said Jessica Matson, EUCI Program Manager.

Matson said the conference will showcase modern technologies and innovations available for economic development professionals and utilities looking to increase electric load through attraction of new industrial and commercial activity.

Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are leading the field by using PowerMap, a first-of-its-kind tool that puts the power of locational knowledge in the hands of economic development professionals. The technology provides detailed cooperative service territory maps, state of the art drone flights to showcase top industrial sites, and economic development data.

More information is available on the EUCI website or at the EUCI office: 303-770-8800.

McConnell Honors Kentucky Co-Ops, Hurricane Relief Efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Crews from Kentucky’s electric cooperatives were among the hurricane relief workers honored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on the U.S. Senate floor on October 3, 2017.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the need for disaster relief for hurricane victims:

“Last week, Congress passed legislation to reauthorize the FAA including its authority to collect and spend money for repairs and replacement parts for our air traffic control system. I am proud that we worked together to get this bill over the finish line. Now the FAA can continue to play a critical role in the federal government’s response to the powerful hurricanes that have hit our country.

“The president is on his way to Puerto Rico to survey the hurricane damage personally and see how the federal government can continue to assist in the recovery efforts. Our thoughts remain with the hurricane victims as they continue to piece their lives and communities back together. During his visit, the president will have the opportunity to see the resilience of the Puerto Rican people. He can also witness the overwhelming support of their fellow Americans who have volunteered to help deliver relief.

“Much of that support has come from the military – including the men and women of Kentucky’s own Air and Army National Guard, who have helped bring relief to Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Just last week, the 101st Airborne Combat Aviation Brigade deployed from Fort Campbell in my home state to help support relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

“President Trump will also have the chance to see the groundswell of generosity from our communities. Many donated money, food, or other essentials. Other brave Americans left their homes behind to go to disaster sites to offer aid. I am especially proud to recognize some of the Kentuckians who have volunteered to join the relief efforts in the wake of these storms.

“The Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services selected eight fire departments from around my state to send to Florida to assist local operations after Hurricane Irma. Working 12-hour shifts, these firefighters responded to 9-1-1 calls in Tampa as residents begin to move back into their homes.

“Throughout my state, churches and non-profits sent volunteers to help however they could. One religious organization arranged more than 200 volunteers to help flood victims in Texas and Florida. In all, they served over 78,000 meals, helped with laundry, and distributed many bottles of water.

“The Kentucky Humane Society stepped in to care for pets that were affected, and chapters of the American Red Cross from across the Commonwealth have mobilized to help where needed. The Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives sent dozens of linemen to Georgia to help restore power after Hurricane Irma. The joint effort from 17 of our state’s electric cooperatives represents one of the largest mutual deployments in Kentucky history.

“These Kentuckians – along with so many more – have generously given their time and labor to help their fellow Americans during this time of suffering. And they aren’t alone. Compassionate men and women from around the country have joined the cause to help ease the pain of the victims.

“Along with my colleagues in the Senate, I am committed to continuing to do our part to support relief along with FEMA, the Department of Defense, and the rest of the administration. We will soon receive a supplemental funding request from the administration, and when we do I expect Congress will act quickly to ensure that the men and women providing critical support in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have the resources they need. The Senate will continue to stand with those suffering from these devastating storms.”

Let’s Rodeo

More than 86 linemen from 15 of Kentucky’s electric co-ops traveled to London, Kentucky last week to compete in the 13th annual Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives Lineman’s Rodeo.  The two-day event gave the lineman the opportunity to show off their skills in hopes of bringing home the main trophy.

In the end, it was the host Jackson Energy that took home the big prize.  A full list of winners is below.

“This was our first time hosting the rodeo,” said Carol Wright, President & CEO of Jackson Energy. “We were so pleased to see so many of our co-ops come out for this event.”

The competition featured both team and individual events.

“It’s a good working tool for keeping safe,” said Michael Ramsey, a lineman from South Kentucky RECC. “Speed matters, but it’s not the main thing. Safety’s an issue, and the more we concentrate on that, the more people who are going to go home safe every day. And that’s the best part of the rodeo.”

Here are highlights from the event:

FIRST PLACE Owen Electric Orman Glass 100 02:09:006
SECOND PLACE Owen Electric Tony Dempsey 100 02:16:088
THIRD PLACE South Kentucky Michael Ramsey 100 02:40:066
MYSTERY 1 – Security Light Change
FIRST PLACE Shelby Energy Michael Nethery 100 06:29:075
SECOND PLACE Owen Electric Tony Dempsey 100 06:32:025
THIRD PLACE Clark Energy Barney Toy 100 06:49:069
MYSTERY 2 – Lineman Assembly
FIRST PLACE Shelby Energy Michael Nethery 100 04:57:003
SECOND PLACE Owen Electric Orman Glass 100 06:05:066
THIRD PLACE Clark Energy Barney Toy 100 08:06:081
MYSTERY 3 – Skills Climb
FIRST PLACE Shelby Energy Michael Nethery 100 08:33:062
SECOND PLACE Owen Electric Orman Glass 100 08:46:097
THIRD PLACE Clark Energy Barney Toy 98 10:25:056
FIRST PLACE Jackson Energy Gerard Lakes 100 01:28:050
SECOND PLACE Jackson Energy Royce Baker 100 01:29:069
THIRD PLACE Jackson Energy Jon Tillery 100 01:30:056
MYSTERY 1 – Light Change
FIRST PLACE Owen Electric Tony Bach 100 04:44:043
SECOND PLACE Jackson Energy Royce Baker 100 05:23:094
THIRD PLACE Clark Energy Kevin Vance 100 05:29:003
MYSTERY 2 – Lineman Assembly
FIRST PLACE Clark Energy Christopher Keyton 100 04:11:098
SECOND PLACE West Kentucky Zachary Underhill 100 04:29:024
THIRD PLACE Clark Energy Kevin Vance 100 04:43:006
MYSTERY 3 – Skills Climb
FIRST PLACE Clark Energy Richard Steele 100 05:49:036
SECOND PLACE Blue Grass Energy Tim Hembree 100 06:04:056
THIRD PLACE Owen Electric Tony Bach 100 06:20:054
FIRST PLACE Jackson Energy Daniel Henson 100 01:47:081
SECOND PLACE Jackson Energy Tyler Riley 100 02:10:003
THIRD PLACE Warren Jake Hall 100 02:28:088
MYSTERY 1 – Light Change
FIRST PLACE Fleming Mason Tommy Parks 100 06:12:087
SECOND PLACE Warren Jake Hall 100 06:45:002
THIRD PLACE Jackson Energy Daniel Henson 100 06:46:066
MYSTERY 2 – Lineman Assembly
FIRST PLACE Jackson Energy Daniel Henson 100 05:01:003
SECOND PLACE Clark Energy Ben Combs 100 05:09:065
THIRD PLACE Kenergy Lucas Smith 100 05:23:040
MYSTERY 3 – Skills Climb
FIRST PLACE Clark Energy Ben Combs 100 07:40:066
SECOND PLACE Grayson RECC Tony Brewer 100 08:41:087
THIRD PLACE Jackson Energy Daniel Henson 100 08:42:010
FIRST PLACE Jackson Energy 3 Brent Johnson, Royce Baker, Kris Cunigan 100 01:36.92
SECOND PLACE Fleming Mason Anthony Marshall, Kevin McCarty, Colt McKenzie 100 01:45.53
THIRD PLACE Jackson Energy 2 Jon Tillery, Marlon Coffey, Daniel Henson 100 01:45.78
MYSTERY 1 – Cross Arm Change
FIRST PLACE Jackson Energy 2 Jon Tillery, Marlon Coffey, Daniel Henson 100 07:17.32
SECOND PLACE Owen Electric 3 Tony Bach, James Juett, Charlie Colligan 100 07:34.12
THIRD PLACE West Kentucky Geoffrey Beck, Zachary Underhill, Jeremy Swift 100 07:37.56
MYSTERY 2 – Crew Medley
FIRST PLACE Jackson Energy 1 Gererd Lakes, Andy Bales, Tyler Riley 100 07:59.72
SECOND PLACE Jackson Energy 2 Jon Tillery, Marlon Coffey, Daniel Henson 100 08:17.29
THIRD PLACE Shelby Energy 1 Tyler Workman, Benji Bohannon, Brandon Keyton 100 09:23.56
MYSTERY 3 – Wire Down
FIRST PLACE Fleming Mason Anthony Marshall, Kevin McCarty, Colt McKenzie 100 08:27.77
SECOND PLACE Jackson Energy 1 Gererd Lakes, Andy Bales, Tyler Riley 100 08:35.14
THIRD PLACE Owen Electric 3 Tony Bach, James Juett, Charlie Colligan 100 08:47.78
FIRST PLACE Shelby Energy Michael Nethery 400 22:45.40
SECOND PLACE Owen Electric Orman Glass 400 24:37.48
THIRD PLACE Owen Electric Tony Dempsey 398 28:31.04
FIRST PLACE Clark Energy Christopher Keyton 400 18:31.56
SECOND PLACE Jackson Energy Marlon Coffey 400 19:51.40
THIRD PLACE Blue Grass Energy Tim Hembree 400 20:30.61
FIRST PLACE Jackson Energy Daniel Henson 400 22:17.60
SECOND PLACE Blue Grasss Dewayne Holcomb 400 26:34.82
THIRD PLACE Kenergy Lucas Smith 400 26:56.83
FIRST PLACE Jackson Energy 2 Jon Tillery, Marlon Coffey, Daniel Henson 400 27:06.99
SECOND PLACE Jackson Energy 1 Gererd Lakes, Andy Bales, Tyler Riley 400 27:21.23
THIRD PLACE West Kentucky Geoffrey Beck, Zachary Underhill, Jeremy Swift 400 30:35.27

Be Smart, Be Safe

Retrain your brain to be careful around electricity

By Paul Wesslund

FAMOUS LAST WORDS: “IT’LL BE ALL RIGHT.” OR, “I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING.” You know that something bad can follow either of those ominous beginnings. The bad things that could happen are at the top of the mind of electric co-op workers all across the state.

They know electricity can be dangerous enough to injure or kill. And you know that, too. But accidents still happen.

The goal of this story is to make fewer of those accidents happen, and maybe even save your life or the life of someone in your family.

One way to start telling this story is to listen to Clarence Greene. As the director of Safety and Loss Prevention for the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, he and his team—safety instructors Kendall Bush, Robert Thornton, and Charlie Lewis—spend every day thinking about how to keep people safe around electricity. Greene has heard comments like the ones above, and he’s familiar with the sometimes-fatal result when people take safety shortcuts.

“People feel like they want to accomplish things. They don’t want to ask for help,” says Greene. “We all want to save time and money. We’ve got the attitude, ‘It can’t happen to me.’”

“False sense of security” 

So why does our brain think accidents only happen to other people?

“There’s a psychological term for that,” says Dr. Sarah Shelton, licensed clinical psychologist and president-elect of the Kentucky Psychological Association. “It’s called ‘optimism bias.’ We see ourselves as special. Statistics don’t apply to us.”

Dr. Shelton, who practices in several cities across Kentucky, says our brains get lulled into taking electric safety for granted because we’re around it all the time.

“We handle plugs every day with no adverse effect,” she says. “It gives us a false sense of security.”

Dr. Shelton also blames the fast-paced world of smartphones and constant, multiple demands for our attention.

“We live in an overstimulated society with sensory overload,” she says. “Our brains are doing more than they can handle almost all the time.”

Part of that information barrage puts us in danger by trying to convince us we can do anything.

“YouTube videos take on the image of credibility and convince us we can do anything from baking cookies to changing oil to performing a triple coronary bypass,” says Dr. Shelton, maybe only half-kidding about the bypass surgery. “This can give us a false confidence in our own abilities. Saving a few dollars can be very alluring and being good stewards of our possessions can be a noble thing, but it can work against you in risks and safety.”

The next safety revolution

Steve Casner would agree we’re too distracted to be safe. He’s a research psychologist who just published Careful: A User’s Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds. In that book he cites a 100-year trend of declining unintentional injury deaths in the United States. At least it was declining until 1992, when the rate of fatal injuries leveled off and then started to increase, setting us back to where we were 30 years ago.

Like Dr. Shelton, Casner blames the do-it-yourself movement and innovations that give us complicated gadgets to fool with while we drive faster cars. Casner says we’ve made ourselves safer with changes like seat belts and child-proof medicine caps, but he adds that further improvement calls for a new approach.

“We have wrung all the big gains we’re going to get from putting rubber corners on stuff,” Casner writes. “The next safety revolution is going to have to happen in our own minds.”

And we can change our own minds, says Dr. Shelton: “You can retrain your brain so you have good habits instead of bad habits.”

To do that, she says, take a lesson from airline pilots, who stay safe by following a rigid checklist.

A good personal checklist, Dr. Shelton recommends, uses the initials SEA—Stop, Evaluate, Act.

“It’s important to stop, slow down, and be aware of our surroundings,” she says, “and then to act—avoid the temptation to reach for the phone when you’re driving or on top of a ladder. Learn to ask yourself, ‘Is this worth my life?’”

KAEC safety director Clarence Greene, whose quotes started this story, provides a fitting finish with his top three important safety tips:
“No. 1, stay away from power lines. No. 2, stay away from power lines. No. 3, stay away from power lines.”