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Date: 11-20-2017

It’s in the Budget: As the campaigns begin, here’s how elected officials are compensated

A desire to serve the public is what every politician worth his or her salt says drives the pursuit of public office.

But as local politicians begin filing their paperwork this month to run in next year’s races, some stand to make more than others if elected to the position they seek.

While some say public service is it’s own reward, most politicians don’t work for free. Consider the relative compensation one receives for working as a member of the Kentucky General Assembly and for working as, say, a county judge-executive.

According to the Legislative Research Commission’s annual Legislative Gavel publication, members of the House and Senate, by statute, receive $188.22 a day while the legislature is in session. That amount is per calendar day, said LRC spokesman Rob Weber.

Legislators also receive $156.20 per calendar day for living expenses as well as a stationary allowance of $500 for senators and $250 for House members. Between General Assembly sessions, legislators are allotted $1,788.51 a month to maintain an office in their home district, the LRC said.

In even-numbered years such as 2018, there are about 100 calendar days during which the legislature is in session and eight and a half months when it’s not. That translates to about $50,000 per year.

From left, State re. Jill York (R-Grayson), State Rep. Chris Harris (R-Martin Co., and State Senator ray Jones. York and Harris make about $50,000 per year while Jones makes slightly more because he is Minority Leader of the Senate. These figures do not include expenses and special sessions.From left, State re. Jill York (R-Grayson), State Rep. Chris Harris (R-Martin Co., and State Senator ray Jones. York and Harris make about $50,000 per year while Jones makes slightly more because he is Minority Leader of the Senate. These figures do not include expenses and special sessions.

The $50,000 estimate doesn’t include the higher daily salaries of legislative leaders — $225.62 for floor leaders, $235.57 for the Senate president and speaker of the House and $216.88 for the Senate president pro tem, the speaker pro tem of the House and the majority and minority caucus chairmen and whips.

It also excludes payment for interim committee meetings and special sessions, the $18.71 per meeting that committee chairmen receive and the 53.5 cents per mile that legislators receive for driving to and from their home districts at most once per week.

Still, legislative compensation is chump change when compared to that of county officials.

By statute, county judges-executive, county clerks, sheriffs, jailers operating full-service jails and property valuation administrators are compensated in accordance with the size or their counties and their years of service. County Jailers in counties where there is no jail can make up to $20,000 per year but many of them, as in Lawrence, Martin and Magoffin earn much more appointing themselves as transportation directors.

In a county such as Franklin County with between 45,000 and 59,999 people, a first-year county official receives an annual salary of $91,162.69, the LRC says. That increases to $95,214.36 in the second year, $99,266.04 in the third year and a maximum of $103,317.71 in the fourth year.

In Lawrence County, which has a population of 15,863 according to the latest census figures supplied by the Kentucky Association of Counties and the U.S. Census Bureau, salaries are lower than Franklin Co. The chart below shows how much county-wide officials are paid by state statute not counting expenses. They receive $85,085 by the 4th year of their terms. The get an automatic raise each year they are in office for the first four years, but no raises after the first term.

In Martin County, with a population of 12,537 and Magoffin Co., pop. 12,913, the salaries are the same as Lawrence while in Johnson County (pop. 23,262)  the officials receive $3,000 to $6,000 per year more by the time their 4-year term ends.

 

county officials salariescounty officials salaries

 

Alfred Miller
of The State Journal contributed to this story

 

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2017

China Energy's interest in W.Va. natural gas may not necessarily turn into big investment

China Energy, the world's largest power company by asset value, signed a non-binding letter of intent last week to invest $83.7 billion over 20 years to develop West Virginia's natural gas industry, but some remain skeptical that the deal may ever materialize.

China Energy, the world's largest power company by asset value, signed a non-binding letter of intent last week to invest $83.7 billion over 20 years to develop West Virginia's natural gas industry, but some remain skeptical that the deal may ever materialize.China Energy, the world's largest power company by asset value, signed a non-binding letter of intent last week to invest $83.7 billion over 20 years to develop West Virginia's natural gas industry, but some remain skeptical that the deal may ever materialize.

For one thing, "As Bloomberg Intelligence energy analyst Michael Kay points out, not even U.S. energy pipeline giant Kinder Morgan Inc. budgets that much for growth projects. There just isn’t enough infrastructure with high enough returns to make it worthwhile," Emma Ockerman and Lynn Doan report for Bloomberg.

Politicians and companies have been trying to develop an energy hub in Appalachia since shale gas began booming almost a decade ago, but it's still easier and cheaper to drill for gas and use the from the long-existing transport hub on Louisiana's Gulf Coast. Energy companies in the Eastern U.S. also face substantial regulatory hurdles in getting projects approved. "Some project developers have spent over a year waiting for federal approval as landowners and environmentalists there lodge complaints and stage protests. Even as politicians push for more investments, pipeline giants from Energy Transfer Partners LP to Williams Partners LP are being forced to delay projects because of regulatory setbacks and legal challenges," Ockerman and Doan report.

Another pitfall of the China Energy deal is that most of the major infrastructure investments needed for the Appalachian energy market may have already been made. "Enough pipelines are coming online to increase the region’s take-away capacity by about a third. And so much gas-fired power generation has been built in the area that Moody’s Investors Service has warned of 'a gas-driven apocalypse' in the power market," Bloomberg reports. "Later this year, Dominion Energy Inc. will bring online a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Maryland, and an ethane export terminal at Marcus Hook, Pa., is already sending cargoes overseas."

China Energy will need to supply more details before the deal's feasibility can be assessed -- details that the Charleston Gazette-Mail's Ken Ward Jr. says are thin on the ground: "What kinds of natural gas processing plants, pipelines or cracker plants will China Energy Investment Corp. Ltd. build? Where? How many jobs will be provided and how many of them will go to West Virginians? Is the state’s environmental regulatory system up to the task of protecting residents? What about the long-term climate effects of the drive to burn more fossil fuels? Will this kind of investment in natural gas spell an even faster decline for West Virginia’s already struggling coal industry?"

Whether the memorandum of understanding comes to fruition remains to be seen. "At the end of the day what really counts is contracts," Jason Feer, head of business intelligence at Poten & Partners Inc. in Houston, told Bloomberg's Jim Polson. "An MoU is usually an agreement to continue talking."

Written by Heather Chapman

Posted at 11/13/2017 

 

Date: 11-12-2017

Saving coal industry could cost you more for electricity; Big Sandy plant already closed for coal, new law no help...

Some power customers may need to be hit with higher electric bills in order to prop up the declining coal-mining industry, the new chairman of a federal energy board said on Thursday.

Chatterjee said he must respond by Dec. 11 to a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for new FERC rules to make sure coal and nuclear plants are fully compensated for the “reliability and resiliency” they contribute to the nation’s power grid.Chatterjee said he must respond by Dec. 11 to a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for new FERC rules to make sure coal and nuclear plants are fully compensated for the “reliability and resiliency” they contribute to the nation’s power grid.

"It would not be a federal subsidy," Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee, a Kentucky native and former adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell, insisted in a conference call with Kentucky reporters.

The extra money to keep coal burning "would come from customers in that region, who need the reliability," he said. "It's in these customers' interests to keep these plants open."

Chatterjee said he must respond by Dec. 11 to a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry for new FERC rules to make sure coal and nuclear plants are fully compensated for the “reliability and resiliency” they contribute to the nation’s power grid.

USA TODAY on Oct. 8 reported that Perry argues new regulations are needed because the nation’s electricity grid is threatened with early retirements of power plants that can withstand major fuel supply disruptions caused by natural or man-made disasters.

Perry's move was quickly panned by clean energy advocates who said it was a blatant attempt to prop up coal.

“This is an unprecedented effort to intervene in the electricity marketplace and provide a new subsidy, which ratepayers will foot the bill for, to coal and nuclear power facilities,” Greg Wetstone, president and chief executive officer of the American Council On Renewable Energy, told USA TODAY.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has criticized recent Department of Energy work that fails "to mention the growing threat of climate change to grid reliability and resilience, the important public health and climate benefits of renewable energy, and the enormous subsidies fossil fuels and nuclear power have received for decades."

Climate change does not factor into FERC's decision-making because it's not an environmental regulatory agency, Chatterjee said. But he said keeping carbon-free nuclear power and coal could be "carbon neutral," he added.

Coal has long been one of the nation's leading sources of heat-trapping gases.

Chatterjee said FERC may accept Perry's proposal – which he said has some "challenges" – or develop its own, and offered one as an alternative that would designate certain coal and nuclear plants as essential for grid stability.

Then, customers across a region would pay higher rates to keep those coal and nuclear plants running.

"Certain plants may be under economic pressure, but essential for reliability," Chatterjee said. "We need them because of where they are located," but may need extra compensation "to keep them open."

Details on which plants could get such a designation and how much extra customers would pay would still need to be worked out, he added.

Coal has suffered in large part from a glut of cheap natural gas. But Chatterjee said natural gas plants don't store large reserves of the fuel at their plants, unlike coal and nuclear plants.

The American Gas Association has argued that cheaper natural gas is highly reliable and that a lot of utilities actually do have underground storage for natural gas.

Chatterjee said the idea to designate essential plants for reliability would have little impact on power plants in Kentucky because most are regulated primarily by the Kentucky Public Service Commission. He said some Kentucky residents, however, could see higher rates depending on their regional grid.

It more directly could benefit Kentucky's coal mining industry, which has been flagging in recent years, he said.

The Washington Post on Oct. 19 reported that eight past FERC members including five former chairs oppose Perry's plan, arguing it would disrupt markets and raise the costs of electricity.

Chatterjee said he is looking for an option that would be "legally defensible and doesn’t distort markets."

He said he does not want to "find out down the road we actually needed the coal plants and lost them due to short-term market pressures," noting that coal production is down about 30 percent over the last decade.

President Donald Trump promised to boost coal during his 2016 campaign.


By James Bruggers
Louisville Courier Journal