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Kentucky Environment Cabinet Budget Cuts Unclear

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The secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet has provided hints — but few specifics — of how state budget cuts will affect his agency.

Along with most sectors of state government, the cabinet’s spending would be reduced by 9 percent over the next two fiscal years and 4.5 percent this year under Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget.

Bevin has left the specifics of administering the cuts up to his cabinet secretaries.

But Secretary Charles Snavely, a former coal executive, wouldn’t say which programs in his cabinet will be cut.

“We’re undertaking a review of everything we do and determining if what we do is productive, if it’s cost effective, if there’s a better way to do it,” Snavely said.

Snavely most recently served as the president of eastern U.S. operations for Arch Coal, the second-largest coal producer in the country.

In order to comply with the cuts for the rest of this fiscal year, Snavely said the cabinet will delay filling vacant positions and might eliminate the positions altogether in the future.

“If you go six months without filling the position and it’s not hurting you too bad then you have to ask yourself if you really needed it to begin with,” Snavely said

The cabinet’s responsibilities are wide-ranging: implementing and enforcing federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, mine safety, surface mine permitting and reclamation, forestry, oil and gas regulation and preserving Kentucky’s wild areas.

The cabinet’s budget was cut by nearly 16 percent between 2012 and 2016 with cuts implemented across various departments.

Bevin’s proposal will cut nearly $2 million from the cabinet’s budget over the next two years.

Among the few specifics that Snavely provided are:

  • The proposed cuts will get rid of a $1 million grant to University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research;
  • The budget authorizes $4 million in bonding to repair Bullock Pen Lake Dam in Boone County;
  • The state will de-authorize $9 million in bonds that would go to cleaning up the Maxey Flats radioactive waste site in Fleming County. Snavely says the state will still have sufficient funding to close out the site;
  • The budget also reauthorizes the Waste Tire Fund, which was scheduled to sunset this summer. The program assesses a $1 fee on tires sold in the state with revenues going to cleanup of abandoned tire piles.

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