Kentucky’s regulators are making the case to the federal government that the commonwealth should be allowed flexibility in reducing its carbon dioxide emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to propose rules regulating carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants next June. In a white paper sent to the EPA last month, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet argues the agency should require states to reduce emissions by a certain percentage, rather than set across-the-board limits for power plants.
Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy John Lyons says Kentucky can reduce its carbon dioxide emissions. But 97 percent of the state’s electricity comes from coal, and the commonwealth should be allowed flexibility and time to make reductions.
“If you were to prescribe a rate-based approach for existing facilities that coal couldn’t meet, you would have no choice but to shut down the coal plants," Lyons said. "That simply is not reasonable nor feasible when we look at the 200,000 manufacturing jobs that we have in this state. There needs to be time for transition.”
Lyons estimates Kentucky is already on track to see significant CO2 reductions in the next several years, because several of the state’s coal-fired power plants plan to close.
The Kentucky Public Service Commission has approved a deal for an Eastern Kentucky utility to buy electricity from biomass.
The proposed biomass plant will be in Perry County, and is expected to be operating by 2017. It’ll burn wood scraps for energy, and replace some of the capacity from the coal-fired Big Sandy power plant. Big Sandy will be retired soon, in the face of tougher pollution regulations.
Usually, the commission has to decide a case based on what electricity is the least-cost reasonable option. But PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych says this case was different.
"The legislature directed the PSC in a bill that was passed in the last session to essentially approve power supply contracts from biomass plants. And that is what the PSC did today."
The Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled its rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Some politicians and the coal industry have criticized the rules, saying they amount to a ban on new coal-fired plants.
The plan sets an emissions limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour for large natural gas plants, and 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour for coal and smaller natural gas plants.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says climate change caused by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide poses numerous public health challenges—everything from poor air quality to an increase in the number of disease-spreading mosquitoes and ticks. She said these rules for new power plants are necessary, and won’t have the dire economic consequences industry groups predict
“We have proven time after time that setting fair, Clean Air Act standards to protect public health does not cause the sky to fall,” McCarthy said. “The economy does not crumble.”
Technologies like carbon capture and sequestration will help new coal plants comply with the standard; they’re available, but are still very expensive.
Kentucky lawmakers will hear from both advocates and opponents of a proposed natural gas liquids pipeline Thursday.
If it’s built, the Bluegrass Pipeline would cross more than a dozen central Kentucky counties, carrying natural gas liquids from the Northeast to the Gulf of Mexico. Land agents have been in the state for several months, talking to landowners and asking for permission to survey property.
Some have agreed, but the project has attracted significant grassroots opposition from Kentuckians worried about the safety and environmental issues the pipeline could bring.
Pipeline company Williams says the pipeline would spur economic development and reduce the cost of consumer goods.
The Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment meets at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Capitol Annex.
There was a slight drop in both the eastern and western Kentucky coalfields, but western Kentucky still produced slightly more coal—50.2 percent of the total production.
The data estimates there are 12,342 coal miners employed in the state—the lowest since the state began keeping records in 1927. That number represents a loss of 851 jobs, but the losses weren’t even among the coalfields. Eastern Kentucky lost jobs, while Western Kentucky’s coal industry grew slightly.