On October 20 and 21, the governor’s 34th annual Conference on the Environment will take place at Louisville’s Downtown Marriott Hotel, wherein members of industry and citizens who can afford the $175 ticket price for both days can attend workshops about “air quality regulations, coal mining and water quality issues, land preservation and conservation, renewable energy, and BioEnergy.”
Unless you’ve $175 — or even $75 to attend just one day of the conference — you’re kind of left out in the cold.
When LEO Weekly asked the Governor’s Office about this — specifically, if the cost of attendance had the effect of silencing the speech of residents who live near LG&E’s Cane Run Road power plant and coal ash pond — we received the following statement from Dick Brown, Executive Director for the Energy and Environment Cabinet’s PR wing. Here’s what he said:
‘This is the 34th annual Governor’s Conference on the Environment and, as it has in past years, the conference covers many topics without a focus on any one particular issue. This is the first time the conference has been held in Louisville.
The registration fees cover the cost of the conference. This year’s prices are the same as last year, and we have had no complaints concerning the registration fees. Despite significant budget cuts, the Cabinet is able to continue to offer valuable programs such as this by charging registration fees to cover the costs.
It’s important to note that the target audience of this conference has been those in the environment and energy industry – including environmental groups like Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Sierra Club as well as groups representing economic development, the scientific community and the like. While the public at large is certainly welcome to attend, the subject matters and discussions are geared toward those previously mentioned.
The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection is well aware of the issues and concerns raised by residents near the Cane Run Road coal ash impoundment and officials have met on numerous occasions with concerned citizens to make certain the impoundment is not presenting a health hazard. Additionally, there are other no-cost avenues for concerned citizens to continue to express their concerns and advocate for their positions.’
Although “the public at large is certainly welcome to attend,” the public isn’t the “target audience of this conference,” so then the issues discussed at said conference — i.e., why does coal ash turn my organs into bricks of cancer? — somehow won’t apply to the public unless they’re members of the Sierra Club or, even better, the CEO of E-ON US, whom will be speaking at the event.
And since the Cabinet is “well aware of the issues and concerns raised by residents near the Cane Run Road coal ash impoundment,” then there’s no real need for them to show up and raise those issues and concerns, if only because (1) the Cabinet has already heard them before, and/or (2) “there are other no-cost avenues for concerned citizens to continue to express their concerns and advocate for their positions,” like hearing with the Army Corps of Engineers that aren’t announced well enough in advance to get the public sufficiently mobilized.
I guess with enough cuts to the budget, any speech is subject to privatization, eh?