State Representative Jim Gooch paid a visit to the Webster County Fiscal Court on Monday, taking up topics ranging from Kentucky’s struggles with energy independence and the need to grow broadband internet in rural areas of the commonwealth.

“One of the most serious things affecting Kentucky is energy,” Gooch stated. “Its more than a little concerning that just six months into the new administration, we’ve seen oil prices almost doubled. We had achieved energy independence for the first time in our history. Then, on his first day in office, President Biden began shutting down American pipelines.”

Gooch also referenced the president’s recent controversial decision not to sanction the company in charge of building Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, in the wake of halting the Keystone Pipeline.

President Joe Biden is currently facing bipartisan backlash to his administration’s agreement with Germany that allows the Russian-owned natural gas pipeline to be built.

“Kentucky is a very energy intensive state,” he continued. “A lot of our energy goes to industrial manufacturing, unlike some other states. Our historically cheap electricity is why a lot of the industries we have in Kentucky are in Kentucky.”

Gooch went on to mention the current environmentally friendly initiatives coming out of Washington D.C., such as the push to expanding the use of solar panels, wind mills and electric cars.

“There is nothing wrong with those clean energy initiatives,” he said. “But you have to have the infrastructure to support them. Right now we don’t.”

Gooch also discussed the passage of House Bill 320, which allows the expansion of broadband internet across the commonwealth.

“During the pandemic, what we saw was that with virtual school, even if you give students Chromebooks to use, if they don’t have good and reliable internet access, it doesn’t matter,” he told the court. “We saw a lot of people having to go spend the day in the McDonald’s parking lot to get free Wi-Fi.”

Gooch said he hopes HB320 will make a big difference going forward.

“If you go to eastern Kentucky, where they have telephone co-operatives, they have some of the best internet access in the state,” added Judge Executive Steve Henry. “This bill will hopefully level the playing field.”

HB320 sets aside $250 million from Kentucky’s share of the federal Coronavirus relief package. Approximately $50 million of the funds will be allocated before April, 2022.

According to Chapter 224A Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, “the broadband deployment fund shall be established in the State Treasury and shall be administered by the authority [Kentucky Infrastructure Authority]. The fund shall be a dedicated fund, and all moneys in the fund shall be allocated and dedicated solely to providing grant funds to governmental agencies and private sector entities to construct infrastructure for the deployment of broadband service to households and businesses in underserved or unserved areas of the Commonwealth through an account designated as the broadband deployment fund.”

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069