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NACo Environment, Energy & Land Use Committee Report - 2012 Legislative Conference

Posted Date: 
March 15, 2012
John Prinkki, Carbon County Commissioner

The Environment, Energy, and Land Use (EELU) Committee began its work Saturday March 3rd at 10:00 AM with presentations by the sponsors of 6 new resolutions dealing with varied issues from limited liability for environmental cleanup to energy storage, support for the Keystone Pipeline, Gulf Coast cleanup, opposing UN Agenda 21, and land use around military bases. These resolutions were discussed and recommendations for amendments were proposed. The resolutions would be voted on Sunday afternoon before the full EELU Committee.

1.    Good Samaritan Environmental Laws. This resolution was presented by Lynn Padgett of Ouray County, Colorado. The issue is that many abandoned mines have no financially responsible party for mine reclamation and that any other ‘Good Samaritan’ organization could be held liable if improved water quality did not meet Clean Water Act/TMDL standards. Lynn mentioned projects that had been started but could not perform the cleanup work because they could then be held liable. The ‘Good Samaritan’ clause would provide liability relief to bona fide NGO’s, private/government consortiums, or private parties.

Adopted Policy: NACo supports legislation and/or policy that will immediately limit liability for “Good Samaritans” performing voluntary, cooperative mitigation efforts on water discharging from abandoned mine sites which measurably improves water quality that has been impacted by mining activity where there is no financially responsible party.

2.     Resolution on Support for the Development of Energy Storage Technology. The intent of this proposed resolution presented by Gary Thompson, Sherman County, Oregon, was to support legislation that would encourage the development of energy storage systems to back up renewable energy systems. The issue is that many times when renewable energy is produced through wind or solar generation, the power cannot be dispatched and the systems have to be shut down.

Adopted Policy: NACo supports legislation that encourages research and development of energy storage technology.

3.    Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The intent of this resolution very ably presented by Richard Dunbar of Phillips County, was to encourage the President of the United States to expedite the review and approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Adopted Policy: NACO urges the Administration and Congress to expedite the comprehensive review and submission for the approval process, including the Presidential Permit, for the Keystone XL Pipeline and other petroleum pipeline projects.

4.    Resolution in Support of the Restore Act. The intent of this resolution presented by the Florida Association of Counties was to redirect 80% of the fines to be collected from the BP Gulf oil spill to Gulf Coast restoration projects through support of H.R. 3096/S.1400, RESTORE Act.

Adopted Policy: NACo supports H.R. 3096/S. 1400, the Resource and Ecosystems Sustainability, tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 (RESTORE Act). NACO supports the concept established by the RESTORE Act, that diverts penalty money from the responsible party to local economic and environmental restoration plans, and supports the expansion of this policy to future pollution incidents.

5.    Resolution on Opposing the Implementation of United Nations Agenda 21. The intent of this resolution was to have NACO oppose implementation of policies included in UN Agenda 21.

This resolution was determined to be in conflict with existing NACo policies. The sponsor was advised that he could bring this back to the Annual meeting. 

6.    Resolution on the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI).  The intent of this resolution was to urge continued bipartisan support of the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative, which provides a frame work for local and state governments to work with military installations so that local government land use decisions are compatible with the military mission.

Adopted Policy: NACo supports continued bipartisan Congressional support and funding for DOD’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI).

That Saturday afternoon we heard from Meg Gaffney-Smith, Chief, Regulatory Program of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Ms. Gaffney-Smith discussed how the Clean Water Act 404 permit process works, and the how counties could work more efficiently with their regional Corps of Engineer Offices.  Citing the Rapanos vs. United States, Ms. Gaffney-Smith stated that because the Decision of the US Supreme Court was a ‘split decision’, ( a 4-1-4 vote), that it was not clear what the intent was. Ms. Gaffney –Smith went on to state that the Corps would proceed to consider Waters of the United States (WOTUS) to include barrow ditches.  It may become more difficult to do maintenance on county roads.

We next heard from Drew Nelson of the Environmental Defense Fund about hydraulic fracturing and the potential environmental impacts and effect on local economies and infrastructure. Although Mr. Nelson gave a fairly unbiased presentation, he was challenged by Commissioner Jeff Wheeland of Lycoming Co. Pennsylvania. Mr. Wheeland stated that the stories of ‘gas’ in water wells and other contamination were not a result of the fracturing, but were related to the fact that the water wells were drilled into natural gas seems and were self-polluted. Mr. Wheeler also stated that they were very pleased with the cooperation of the gas companies in maintaining and improving roads and bridges.

The morning of March 4th, Brian Wynne, Electric Drive Transportation Association, and a representative of the Edison Electric Institute, discussed the advantages of electric cars and what electric companies like Old Dominion are doing to the electric distribution system to accommodate the additional loads on their systems.
The new Level 1 electric cars will be charged up with a regular household 120v outlet, take about 8 hours to charge and will go as far as 40 miles on a charge. The car will draw about 1.4 kw. At 8 hours of charge x 1.4 kwh x the off peak rate of $.0865 kwh, the cost to drive that 40 miles will be about $.97 ( The normal on-peak rate at Old Dominion is $.179 kwh).I have to admit that when I did the math I was surprised at how inexpensive they will be to drive. The Level 2 electric cars will operate on a 240V charge, take about 10 hours to charge but get about twice the mileage of the Level 1 cars.

The Edison Electric Institute discussed how ‘smart grid’ technology will provide for ‘off-peak’ charging of electric cars during the night at a lower cost. Through the ‘smart grid’, a power company could control when certain items in your home are allowed to be on. They also provided examples of ‘vehicle charging parking areas’ that would be located in downtown and business areas so that commuters would be able to recharge while at work.

Overall, the conference was well worth attending and Richard Dunbar should be congratulated for doing a great job in presenting his arguments for support of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

John Prinkki | | (406) 446-1231