Christmas coal, meet government grinches

Published 8:58 am Monday, December 4, 2017


Guest columnist

‘Tis the season for another edition of “Liberty Boosters and Busters.”

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Liberty Booster: The State Journal reporter Alfred Miller is being sued by Finance Cabinet bureaucrats after filing a challenge to secret meetings of a committee charged with recommending a contractor on a complex public-private partnership (P3) involving a built-to-suit demolition/construction project that will change the face of downtown Frankfort.

Miller received a favorable ruling from the attorney general, who rightly agreed he’s entitled to attend the committee’s meetings.

The cabinet’s Grinch-like response in taking the reporter to court indicates its continuing commitment to obstruct citizens’ right to know the committee’s membership, when it meets and how it conducts the public’s business.

Absurdity alert: the cabinet argues an “overbroad interpretation” of open-meetings law could “undermine the confidentiality of the procurement process by exposing evaluation team members to great risk of improper contact, lobbying, and public opinion pressure, especially when a procurement is the subject of strong community opinions.”

Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government director Amye Bensenhaver, who’s representing The State Journal, rejected this nonsense: “They’re essentially arguing that darkness is the best disinfectant, which is inimical and contrary in every respect to the Open Meetings Act.”

Cabinet officials and private contractors refuse to accept that the badly advised P3 law clearly defines what business its Built-to-Suit Selection Committee must conduct in public and what can be discussed behind closed doors.

The committee certainly has no authority to pull the blinds and block the sunshine of accountability.

These crony-istic, economically incestuous P3 schemes, which often end up presenting taxpayers with higher price tags than projects using traditional delivery methods, need more, not less, scrutiny.

Liberty Buster: Canadian university professor Christopher Kennedy’s recent essay “Boycott products from states with dirty energy” attacks Kentucky’s coal industry and its economic impact on the commonwealth.

Kennedy gets a lump of … well, you know … in his stocking for smearing Kentucky, labeling ours a “rogue” state while claiming coal makes the commonwealth a world-class polluter “comparable to that of China’s worst province.”

Missing from his harangue is any genuine acceptance of clean-coal technology’s impact in making streams in mining areas rivaling water flowing from spigots in Kentuckians’ homes in terms of safety and drinkability.

Kennedy specifically condemns some of our important employers while expressing thinly veiled hope that consumers quit purchasing products made in our “dirty” state and that out-of-state employers cross Kentucky off site-selection lists when considering where to expand or relocate.

He charges General Electric and Toyota’s Georgetown plant as huge pollution enablers claiming that producing 550,000 vehicles releases emissions equal to those of a city of 40,000 residents or that “assembling a typical washing-machine-sized appliance in 2014 using Kentucky’s electricity would have emitted about 260 kilograms of carbon dioxide compared to 3 kilograms if it had been assembled in Vermont.”

Missing from Kennedy’s cherry-picked data: 36,000 employees feed families and send kids to college on paychecks earned from just those two employers.

Missing from his conclusions: the devastating impact his radical ideas would have on them.

Liberty Booster: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt brought the great gift of a rollback of the Obama administration’s disastrous Clean Power plan on his recent trip to Kentucky.

The ill-fated, yet unimplemented, policy mandated the Bluegrass State reduce carbon emissions by a whopping 18 percent on top of the significant reductions already achieved and was designed to help further President Obama’s promise to “bankrupt” the coal industry.

The Heritage Foundation’s analysis showed the plan would eventually have caused an average annual shortfall of 400,000 jobs, increases of 13 percent to 20 percent in household electricity costs and total income loss of more than $20,000 for American families.

Merry Christmas, Santa Scott!

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. He can be reached at and @bipps on Twitter.