Home » Op-Ed: Energy cabinet improved transparency without sacrificing environment

Op-Ed: Energy cabinet improved transparency without sacrificing environment

Charles Snavely

By Charles Snavely
Secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The purpose of government in a free society is to serve the people. It is the responsibility of such government to provide that service in an ethical, diligent and effective manner. For the past four years the agencies of the Bevin administration worked each day to do just that.

The Energy and Environment Cabinet often flies below the radar of public visibility. Our mission is to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Kentucky as well as to provide stewardship of our natural resources and of our natural environment. Additionally, we protect the public by regulating many public utilities that provide electric, natural gas or water/wastewater services.

We accomplished much in the last four years, with a team of dedicated professionals in every agency which I had the good fortune to lead. We tried to be responsive to citizens and local governments. We focused on improving our service to the public, to the business community that employs most of us, and to our employees. We also made great strides in improving cost and efficiency, and reducing bureaucracy, without sacrificing either the protection of the public or the environment.

We eliminated the requirement to use reformulated gasoline in northern Kentucky, with no adverse effect on the environment, saving tens of millions of dollars for residents of that area. We consolidated three natural heritage programs into the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves, which has enhanced the ability to protect rare species and threatened natural areas.

We improved service to the public through better communication and transparency. Our office handles over 5,000 requests for public information each year in a prompt and professional manner. Information is shared through a completely new website and through active social media outlets.  And, for the first time, Kentuckians can see and respond to all events, hearings and meetings on an electronic calendar, to increase public participation and transparency.

Likewise, the Public Service Commission has diligently pursued protections for the public by implementing a gas pipeline damage prevention program and by scrutinizing electric bill charges by all utilities.

Providing oversight and service to the businesses and government entities that we regulate is important. Our professional guidance on environmental issues and efficient processing of submittals helped make Kentucky a more competitive state, one where companies want to locate and hire our friends and family members. Our cabinet monitored our effectiveness in this area by tracking performance metrics, and we are proud that significant strides were made in reducing or eliminating backlogs of both permitting actions and legal cases.

This effort also applied to laws and regulations implemented by the Energy and Environment Cabinet. Well over 50 outdated statutes were repealed and another 50 were modified. Such a cleanup had not occurred in decades. Our regulations received the same scrutiny, resulting in the reduction in the number of regulations by over 30 percent, without lessening, and in many cases enhancing, the cabinet’s protection of human health and the environment. Over a dozen outdated boards and commissions also were eliminated. We also developed and improved the electronic submittal of many forms, and we strongly recognized the importance of our environmental permitting professionals in furthering economic development across Kentucky.

Finally, but certainly not the least important, was that the Bevin administration recognized the importance of, and improved, the service that we provide to our employees, the underappreciated scientists and administrative staff that protect your health, your environment, and your natural resources. Despite the public pension crisis that siphoned the funding that otherwise would have been used for salaries, vehicles, and equipment for our staff, our cabinet made efficiency improvements that allowed us to improve salaries, replace outdated equipment and make the workplace more modern and safe.

We are proud of what we have accomplished at the Energy and Environment Cabinet over the past four years. We have been frugal, made wise choices with taxpayer money, and cleaned a lot of clutter out of the attic. Ultimately, we created a more effective and efficient organization, one that better serves the needs of the citizens of Kentucky and the environment, which is what should always be expected of us.

Charles Snavely is the Secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet