Emissions regulations raise concern with officials

Some fear new rules will further hinder coal industry

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

President Barack Obama’s call Monday to cut carbon dioxide emissions at power plants across the country by 30 percent — 19 percent in Kentucky — by the year 2030 raised concerns among officials and politicians who fear the proposed regulations could further hamper the state’s beleaguered coal industry.

The 645-page proposal to curb global warming, unveiled by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, gives some leeway to coal-producing states such as Kentucky, where coal-fired plants generated 92 percent of the state’s electricity in 2012. 

Still, officials here stopped well short of embracing the regulations, which are set to take effect by 2018 at the latest.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said his administration will be “very active and vocal during the 120-day comment period to ensure Kentucky’s families and businesses are protected” even as it continues to review the proposed greenhouse gas emission restrictions.

“I appreciate that the proposed rule regarding existing power plants announced today does recognize that differences do exist among manufacturing states and in states that produce the nation’s energy,” Beshear said in a statement. “However, I am still extremely concerned that it does not provide adequate flexibility or attainable goals.

“The President’s desire to protect our climate is one that I share, but that desire must be attained while also providing economic security to our families and businesses.”

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett warned that Obama’s environmental proposals could affect the state’s manufacturing sector though higher energy costs, and he called claims by the EPA that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would lower residential utility bills “wishful thinking.”

Cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions will not negate the growth of coal usage elsewhere globally, such as Russia, China and Germany, he said.

“Even if the president today announced he was shuttering all coal-fired power plants, that would only reduce our manmade carbon by 3 percent, and with the developments in the other countries it’s going to be quickly replaced anyway,” Bissett told The State Journal.

Kentucky Utilities, which supplies energy for the Frankfort Plant Board, is evaluating the president’s proposals, said KU and Louisville Gas & Electric spokeswoman Natasha Collins, noting the companies have taken steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by building a natural gas unit at Cane Run Station, retiring 13 percent of the companies’ coal-fired plants and rehabbing eight hydroelectric units at Ohio Falls.

“Those are the kinds of thoughtful decisions that we’ve already been making, so we think we’re heading in the right direction,” Collins said.

Politics of coal

Those campaigning in the midterm elections also weighed in on Obama’s EPA regulations, universally criticizing their potential impact on Kentucky’s coal industry.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to file legislation this week to “stop this assault on Kentucky and the broader U.S. economy,” calling the president’s proposed emissions restrictions “a dagger in the heart of the American middle class.”

“The fact that the President plans to do all this through an end-run around Congress only highlights his contempt for the wishes of the public and a system of government that was devised precisely to restrain an action like today’s,” McConnell said in a statement.

His Democratic challenger this fall, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, said the rules are further proof “that Washington isn’t working for Kentucky.”

“Coal keeps the lights on in the commonwealth, providing a way for thousands of Kentuckians to put food on their tables,” she said in a statement. “When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the President’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority.”

Both campaigns offering a nod to the state’s coal industry shouldn’t be surprising, said University of Kentucky political science professor Stephen Voss. Although the two candidates have made coal a central issue in their bids for U.S. Senate, he said the president’s mandate now gives them “something tangible to sink their teeth into.”

“I don’t see how this doesn’t help McConnell at least a little,” Voss said. “My guess is the Grimes camp knew this was coming and they worked very hard to try to inoculate her against the emergence of these regulations, but whether it works depends on the extent to which she can get voters to evaluate their choice on an individual candidate versus candidate level rather than a sort of broader, partisan choice.

“If they’re thinking collectively about Democrats versus Republicans, then this issue gives McConnell new leverage.”

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  • Aren't you aware that 40 years ago we were all going to die of starvation  from global cooling bringing on another ice age? People that didn't buy into that theory were beat up by the left as well. Same kooks different story...


  • Time for Mitch McConnell and big coal to go.  And people who make their living from coal will have to learn to make their income some other way.


  • Climate deniers lost their minds over new EPA rules to decrease harmful, climate-destabilizing CO2 pollution from existing dirty power plants, as per the U.S. Supreme Court-mandated enforcement of the Clean Air Act.

    Keep peeing in the pool?! The energy industry and their Republikan lackies are trying to tell us that everyone should always pee in the swimming pool unless and until it can be proven that everyone else has also stopped doing so. In the meantime, it’s best for everyone to keep peeing in the swimming pool as much as possible. 

    It’s about the politics of the handful of folks who profit off of the oil, coal and gas extraction industries, and the personal pain theywould like to avoid in cutting into a single cent of the most profitable industry the world has ever known. No wonder the vast majority of Americans reject the alternate reality being presented by the desperate dead-enders and fossil-fueled clowns who are only after every red cent that they can get and the Earth be damned!

  • But one thing that is happening right here, right now, right here, right now is global climate change and how expensive is loosing the bottom 3rd of Florida or Manhattan Island to rising sea levels going to be?  How many jobs are gonna be lost there?

  • Aren't you shocked that the coal and energy industries are against any decreases in carbon emissions?  Weren't you dismayed that the Repubican "officials" who are firmly in the pocket of said industry would pronounce that this would be the death knell of our industries and life as we know it?  Well, BIG Freakin' Industry has rang the death knell before when ever the government had to step in and insist on safety and environmental regulations to protect the public...and each and every time, their doom and gloom predictions did not come to fruition.  Remember the automobile emissions standards that were going to "cause the auto industry to go out of business on this country"?  Remember the seat belt laws that were supposed to do the same?  Remember the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act?  Somehow we got through those catastrophies just fine.  The industry stooges and just crying "wolf"!