Erica Peterson

Erica reports on environment and energy issues for WFPL, which run the gamut from stories about the regionââââ

A partnership between the local utility and state and federal government will build Kentucky’s largest solar array at Fort Campbell. The solar array will cover about 20 acres at the army base, and will produce five megawatts of power.

Kenya Stump, Kentucky’s assistant director of the Division of Renewable Energy, said five megawatts is enough energy to power about 500 homes.

The array will sit on an abandoned landfill, Stump said.

“The landfill itself wasn’t in a position to be utilized since it was already capped and just sitting there, so they had space,” Stump said. “So the array actually fits perfectly with the abandoned landfill.”

She said it’s only one example of using brownfields sites to spur renewable energy development, which is an initiative the Environmental Protection Agency has been working on for awhile. And in Kentucky, it’s becoming more feasible.

“I think as the price of solar is dropping, I think we’re starting to see a little bit more demand from the consumers to utilize solar resources,” Stump said.

The most severe form of black lung disease is at levels not seen since the early 1970s, according to new data from the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety.

NIOSH has been testing underground coal miners in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia for the disease for 40 years.

In the data letter published today in a scientific journal, researchers say there has been a startling resurgence of complicated black lung.

This is despite federal laws that were supposed to control dust in coal mines and eradicate the disease. 

Evan Smith is an attorney with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center in Whitesburg.

Erica Peterson, Kentucky Public Radio

Despite the fact that the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline has been suspended, the companies behind the project are appealing a circuit court decision that found they don’t have the right of eminent domain.

The pipeline would have carried natural gas liquids—like butane, ethane and propane—from drilling operations in the Northeast through Kentucky to processing plants on the Gulf Coast. The NGLs are used in manufacturing materials such as plastics and synthetic rubber, and some Kentucky residents expressed concerns about widespread water contamination if the pipe were to be built and leak.

In May, the companies behind the project announced they were suspending capital investment in the project due to a lack of customer commitments. This was after a number of setbacks, including a ruling from Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd that the Bluegrass Pipeline wouldn’t have the power of eminent domain in Kentucky.

Representatives of Bluegrass Pipeline parent company Williams said at the time that the company would seek to use eminent domain only as a last resort, but they believed they had the power under Kentucky law.

Coal miners who work in small mines are more than twice as likely to contract the most serious form of black lung disease, according to a new federal study.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health studied more than 3700 coal miners between 2005 and 2012. They found that miners who worked in mines with fewer than 50 employees were more likely to both get complicated pneumoconiosis and show signs of abnormal lung functions.

Wes Addington is the deputy director of the Appalachian Citizens Law Center. He says, it’s one thing to see that coal miners are still developing mild lung problems.

For the first time in a year, quarterly data shows an increase in coal production in Eastern Kentucky. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the industry is rebounding. 

Attorneys General from Kentucky, Indiana and 10 other states are suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency over proposed greenhouse gas regulations.

The EPA has been required to regulate greenhouse gases—like carbon dioxide—since 2007, when the Supreme Court determined the gases posed a danger to human health. The lawsuit filed in the D.C. Court of Appeals on Friday takes issue with the way the EPA has proposed the regulations.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway joined the suit without input from the Beshear Administration’s Energy and Environment Cabinet. Conway referenced the lawsuit in his Fancy Farm speech over the weekend.

"In fact, you’re looking at the only Democratic Attorney General in the country who is standing up for our coal and our low electricity rates by suing the EPA over whether they even have the authority to implement these new rules," Conway said to the crowd Saturday.

Under the proposed regulation, Kentucky will have to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 18 percent, and Indiana by 20 percent. But the way the emissions reductions are reached is left primarily up to the states.

Chris Morris/Flickr Account

The Kentucky Public Service Commission has signed off on a plan that lets Kentucky Power convert part of its Big Sandy power plant to natural gas.

The power plant in Eastern Kentucky has burned coal for half a century. But it’s facing new regulations on mercury and other toxic emissions, and Kentucky Power determined installing updated pollution controls would be too expensive.

Converting the smaller of Big Sandy’s two units to natural gas will cost an estimated $50 million, which will be passed on to ratepayers. The move will also keep part of the power plant open, and retain some jobs in the region. Last year, regulators approved a plan to shut down the plant’s larger unit and replace it with electricity generated at a coal-fired power plant in West Virginia.

McConnell Press Office

The Environmental Protection Agency is holding hearings this week across the country to collect public comments on its proposed regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions.  Members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation gathered Wednesday to address what they call a “war on coal.”

The EPA’s proposed regulation would require Kentucky to cut 18 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions, though it leaves how those cuts are made up to the state.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attended what he called a “sham hearing” to voice his objections with the rule to EPA representatives, and then hosted a press conference with other congressional members from coal producing states.

"This isn’t about regulations written in some dungeon up in Washington. This is about thousands of people who have lost their jobs," exclaimed U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

A policy group is asking the Federal Trade Commission to scrutinize advertising claims by biomass plants that the energy produced is environmentally friendly and “green.”

Biomass energy is produced when wood products are burned in a power plant. There aren’t any large-scale biomass plants in Kentucky yet, but a company called ecoPower is building one in Eastern Kentucky.

TVA

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold hearings this week on proposed regulations to limit the carbon dioxide coal-fired power plants can emit. Environmental activists and coal industry supporters are both traveling from Kentucky to Atlanta this week for the federal hearing.

The EPA’s rule would cut carbon dioxide emissions nationwide. The proposal sets emissions goals for each state, and leaves it up to individual states to decide how to achieve those goals.  But before the rule is finalized, there are months of public comment. People can submit comments in writing, or make public statements at one of the four hearings happening this week. But Bill Bissett of the Kentucky Coal Association says it’s worth it to many to make the trek.

“I think the difference is, you can send a letter, you can send an email, but I think it’s important, one, that the people on the other side of this issue hear what we have to say as people who support coal,” said Bissett.  “But I think also, we need to hear what they have to say. To me, it’s a very democratic principle of this country, to be heard publicly."

Pages