Environment
9:53 am
Wed April 30, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court: EPA Allowed to Regulate Emissions from Coal Plants

The Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky
The Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky
Credit Tennessee Valley Authority

The U.S. Supreme Court is upholding the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal pollution that crosses state lines.

Tuesday’s 6-2 decision is being called a major victory for the Obama administration’s environmental agenda, and will likely have a major impact on coal-fired power plants in Kentucky and other states.

The White House has put forth a set of new Clean Air Act regulations aimed at cutting pollution coming from coal-fired power plants. Coal industry advocates and many Republican lawmakers—including Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell—have sharply criticized those regulations, describing them as government overreach and a “war on coal.”

The EPA is expected to unveil new climate control regulations in June to cut down on carbon pollution from coal plants. Kentucky gets an estimated 90 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants, such as the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County.

Many power suppliers have been anticipating increased scrutiny of coal pollution, and have been implemented changes at their plants to make their coal-fired operations more environmentally-friendly.

Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Scott Brooks told WKU Public Radio that Tuesday's Supreme Court decision has "no impact" on the utility's plans for the Paradise plant.

“We are clearing land for the combined-cycle gas plant that we’re going to be building over the next couple of years," Brooks said. "And that’s going to be right next to the current Paradise plant. We’ll be retiring two units, Units 1 and 2. Unit 3, the largest coal unit at Paradise, will continue to operate.”

The TVA's Board of Directors voted last November to keep the Paradise facility open, but with major changes. The largest unit at the plant will continue to burn coal, with the other two units converted to natural gas.