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 PLACEOwen ElectricOrman Glass10002:09:006
SECOND PLACEOwen ElectricTony Dempsey10002:16:088
THIRD PLACESouth KentuckyMichael Ramsey10002:40:066
MYSTERY 1 – Security Light Change
FIRST PLACEShelby EnergyMichael Nethery10006:29:075
SECOND PLACEOwen ElectricTony Dempsey10006:32:025
THIRD PLACEClark EnergyBarney Toy10006:49:069
MYSTERY 2 – Lineman Assembly
FIRST PLACEShelby EnergyMichael Nethery10004:57:003
SECOND PLACEOwen ElectricOrman Glass10006:05:066
THIRD PLACEClark EnergyBarney Toy10008:06:081
MYSTERY 3 – Skills Climb
FIRST PLACEShelby EnergyMichael Nethery10008:33:062
SECOND PLACEOwen ElectricOrman Glass10008:46:097
THIRD PLACEClark EnergyBarney Toy9810:25:056
FIRST PLACEJackson EnergyGerard Lakes10001:28:050
SECOND PLACEJackson EnergyRoyce Baker10001:29:069
THIRD PLACEJackson EnergyJon Tillery10001:30:056
MYSTERY 1 – Light Change
FIRST PLACEOwen ElectricTony Bach10004:44:043
SECOND PLACEJackson EnergyRoyce Baker10005:23:094
THIRD PLACEClark EnergyKevin Vance10005:29:003
MYSTERY 2 – Lineman Assembly
FIRST PLACEClark EnergyChristopher Keyton10004:11:098
SECOND PLACEWest KentuckyZachary Underhill10004:29:024
THIRD PLACEClark EnergyKevin Vance10004:43:006
MYSTERY 3 – Skills Climb
FIRST PLACEClark EnergyRichard Steele10005:49:036
SECOND PLACEBlue Grass EnergyTim Hembree10006:04:056
THIRD PLACEOwen ElectricTony Bach10006:20:054
FIRST PLACEJackson EnergyDaniel Henson10001:47:081
SECOND PLACEJackson EnergyTyler Riley10002:10:003
THIRD PLACEWarrenJake Hall10002:28:088
MYSTERY 1 – Light Change
FIRST PLACEFleming MasonTommy Parks10006:12:087
SECOND PLACEWarrenJake Hall10006:45:002
THIRD PLACEJackson EnergyDaniel Henson10006:46:066
MYSTERY 2 – Lineman Assembly
FIRST PLACEJackson EnergyDaniel Henson10005:01:003
SECOND PLACEClark EnergyBen Combs10005:09:065
THIRD PLACEKenergyLucas Smith10005:23:040
MYSTERY 3 – Skills Climb
FIRST PLACEClark EnergyBen Combs10007:40:066
SECOND PLACEGrayson RECCTony Brewer10008:41:087
THIRD PLACEJackson EnergyDaniel Henson10008:42:010
FIRST PLACEJackson Energy 3Brent Johnson, Royce Baker, Kris Cunigan10001:36.92
SECOND PLACEFleming MasonAnthony Marshall, Kevin McCarty, Colt McKenzie10001:45.53
THIRD PLACEJackson Energy 2Jon Tillery, Marlon Coffey, Daniel Henson10001:45.78
MYSTERY 1 – Cross Arm Change
FIRST PLACEJackson Energy 2Jon Tillery, Marlon Coffey, Daniel Henson10007:17.32
SECOND PLACEOwen Electric 3Tony Bach, James Juett, Charlie Colligan10007:34.12
THIRD PLACEWest KentuckyGeoffrey Beck, Zachary Underhill, Jeremy Swift10007:37.56
MYSTERY 2 – Crew Medley
FIRST PLACEJackson Energy 1Gererd Lakes, Andy Bales, Tyler Riley10007:59.72
SECOND PLACEJackson Energy 2Jon Tillery, Marlon Coffey, Daniel Henson10008:17.29
THIRD PLACEShelby Energy 1Tyler Workman, Benji Bohannon, Brandon Keyton10009:23.56
MYSTERY 3 – Wire Down
FIRST PLACEFleming MasonAnthony Marshall, Kevin McCarty, Colt McKenzie10008:27.77
SECOND PLACEJackson Energy 1Gererd Lakes, Andy Bales, Tyler Riley10008:35.14
THIRD PLACEOwen Electric 3Tony Bach, James Juett, Charlie Colligan10008:47.78
FIRST PLACEShelby EnergyMichael Nethery40022:45.40
SECOND PLACEOwen ElectricOrman Glass40024:37.48
THIRD PLACEOwen ElectricTony Dempsey39828:31.04
FIRST PLACEClark EnergyChristopher Keyton40018:31.56
SECOND PLACEJackson EnergyMarlon Coffey40019:51.40
THIRD PLACEBlue Grass EnergyTim Hembree40020:30.61
FIRST PLACEJackson EnergyDaniel Henson40022:17.60
SECOND PLACEBlue GrasssDewayne Holcomb40026:34.82
THIRD PLACEKenergyLucas Smith40026:56.83
FIRST PLACEJackson Energy 2Jon Tillery, Marlon Coffey, Daniel Henson40027:06.99
SECOND PLACEJackson Energy 1Gererd Lakes, Andy Bales, Tyler Riley40027:21.23
THIRD PLACEWest KentuckyGeoffrey Beck, Zachary Underhill, Jeremy Swift40030:35.27

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.”