Lawmakers Begin Debate On Energy Bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Lawmakers returned to the state Capitol on
Monday for what they hope will be a quick special session as they
begin debate on an energy bill that is intended to lure a $3
billion coal gasification plant to Kentucky.
The measure appears to be on the fast track to passage with
legislative leaders predicting that it will clear the General
Assembly by week's end.
"It will pass very comfortably," said House Speaker Jody
Richards, D-Bowling Green. "In my judgment, there won't be many
votes against it."
The measure had been caught up in an election-year political
squabble that nearly doomed it until House and Senate leaders
hammered out a tentative agreement after weeks of closed-door
The dollar value of a proposed incentives package intended to
land the Peabody Energy coal gasification plant would be
substantial, but lawmakers say they are not certain of the actual
Legislative leaders have agreed to provide financial incentives
for all qualifying companies that build alternative fuel
facilities. Early estimates put the value of the proposed Peabody
incentives at $300 million.
Under the legislation, actual incentives would be decided by the
Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, not the General
The proposal would provide breaks on sales taxes, income taxes
and coal severance taxes for alternative fuel plants.
The environmental group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is
lobbying against the bill and has even purchased newspaper ads
criticizing the proposal. Teri Blanton, a member of the group, said
she fears it could lead to the leveling of even more mountaintops
by coal companies taking advantage of the incentives.
"It's not that we need to lure them here," Blanton said. "The
coal is already here."
Blanton plans to testify against the measure on Tuesday during a
meeting of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee.
In addition to Peabody, Houston-based Future Fuels LLC has also
expressed an interest in building in Kentucky. The company is
working with Kentucky River Properties LLC to develop two "clean
coal" projects near Hazard, Ky.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher had included the issue on an agenda with
several other items when he called the General Assembly into a
special session last month. House lawmakers refused to take part,
saying many of the items could wait until they convene in January.
In an order Friday, Fletcher limited the agenda to only the
energy bill, calling on lawmakers to make any necessary financial
appropriations to get the measures implemented. He said the measure
would decrease the state and nation's dependence on foreign oil and
create more markets for Kentucky coal.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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