air pollution

Petr Kratochvil, publicdomainpictures.net

A bill that environmental groups say would damage the Clean Air Act is advancing through the House of Representatives. The bipartisan bill is spearheaded by Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield.

The bill—called the Ratepayer Protection Act—passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee last Tuesday. According to Whitfield, the bill is a “commonsense solution to protect ratepayers from higher electricity prices, reduced reliability, and other harmful impacts of EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.”

The Clean Power Plan is the proposed regulation to set carbon dioxide emissions reduction goals for each state. It hasn’t been finalized yet, but all states will likely have to make some cuts. The EPA is regulating carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act; in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that CO2 is harmful to human health, and thus subject to EPA regulations.

The pending rule is the subject of numerous legal and legislative challenges, and Whitfield’s bill is the latest. It would do two main things: halt the implementation of the Clean Power Plan until all pending lawsuits against the regulation are resolved, and once that happens, allow any state that finds “significant adverse affects” on electricity prices or reliability to opt out.

Kentucky has long been known for coal. But a new project unveiled today has the potential to let the commonwealth also be known for coal technology.

A bevy of scientists and elected officials are in Harrodsburg this morning to cut the ribbon on a new carbon capture pilot project. The project was developed by scientists at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research, and is being installed at Kentucky Utilities’ E.W. Brown power plant.

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet

The man who will help lead Kentucky’s effort to meet new air pollution standards says his office will stay above the political battle surrounding the issue.

Kentucky’s assistant secretary for climate policy, John Lyons, faces the unenviable task of combing through 1,400 pages of material that spell out the new federal carbon emissions rules announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency. The regulations have been denounced this week by both of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates as well as business leaders who predict doom for the state’s coal industry and overall economy.

Lyons, whose office is part of Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet, told WKU Public Radio that new federal air quality rules have been impacting the state’s energy policies for several years.

“This is the only latest in a string of environmental regulations that we have to evaluate. Of course, the politics play into that, and those things are what they are. But this Cabinet has to assess those rule-makings, and how best to adopt them—or challenge them in some cases, which is not unprecedented. We’ve challenged rules before, and likely will again at some point.”

While the new EPA standards call for a 30 percent reduction in the nation’s carbon emissions by 2030, Kentucky’s specific goal is a cut of 18.3 percent.

Kentucky LRC

Kentucky’s two top-ranking lawmakers have  some choice words about new coal emissions regulations announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo are slamming the proposed rules, which will cut carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by the year 2030.  .

“You can’t formulate energy policy for a growing country like ours, if you’re not going to consider, as part of that solution, your most abundant resource," Stumbo said. "It doesn’t make any sense at all, it’s a dumbass thing to do, and you can quote me on that.”

Stumbo added that he didn’t think that the rules will affect the outcome of the November House elections, where Democrats hope to retain a narrow majority over Republicans.

The regulations are subject to public input and will be officially enacted a year from now.

New Grimes Ad Criticizes Obama Power Plant Plan

Jun 5, 2014

Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has released a radio ad criticizing President Obama for his "pie in the sky" power plant regulations that she says will hurt Kentucky. The ad debuted Wednesday in coal regions in eastern and western Kentucky.

Grimes says in the ad that Obama's plan will lead to utility rate increases, shortages of power and the loss of more coal jobs. She says it's clear Obama has "no idea" how his plan affects the state.

The ad is a response to Obama's plan to order big cuts in pollution discharged by power plants. It represents Grimes' latest attempt to distance herself from Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky.

She's challenging senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in the fall election. McConnell's campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore called Grimes' ad "transparently political."

Tennessee Valley Authority

Construction crews have cleared about 60 percent of the land needed to begin building a new natural gas facility at the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County. The new plant is scheduled to open by spring of 2017, and will take the place of two coal burning units currently in operation at the TVA facility.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the future site of the new gas-burning unit, Transition Manager Billy Sabin said this week’s announcement of new E.P.A. regulations on power plant emissions won’t impact the Paradise Fossil Plant, because the TVA had already decided to reduce carbon emissions at a much faster rate than what the federal government is now seeking.

“We will have a reduction of about 50 percent of coal. Because Unit 3 will continue to run, it’s going to burn about 2.7 to 3 million tons of coal a year,” Sabin said. “So it’ll be about a 50 percent reduction from what we do now.”

Sabin says the excavation stage of the new cleaner-burning gas plant project will be completed by early 2015, with construction of the facility following. He says the new facility, known as a combined-cycle gas plant, has several advantages over the older coal-burning model.

While many on the left embraced the Environmental Protection Agency's new rules to reduce coal-burning power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, some red state Democrats couldn't put enough distance between themselves and the Obama administration.

You would have had a tough time, for instance, distinguishing the reaction of Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes from that of the man she hopes to replace, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican.

Offices of Sen. McConnell and Sec. Grimes

Both of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates are denouncing new federal guidelines related to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that power plants will have to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030.

While Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes have exchanged harsh words about who is best to represent the commonwealth in Washington, they both believe the EPA’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants represent a federal overreach that will harm Kentucky’s economy.

Calling it a “national energy tax” imposed by the Obama Administration, Sen. McConnell said he will introduce legislation to block the new rules.

In a statement released to the media Monday by McConnell’s office, the Louisville Republican said the EPA regulations would lead to “higher costs, fewer jobs, and a less reliable energy grid.”

Tennessee Valley Authority

A new report on U.S. power plant emissions says Kentucky has the highest rate of carbon dioxide emissions in the nation.

The report was produced by environmental advocacy groups, energy companies, and Bank of America.

Kentucky topped the ranking of states emitting the most carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of power produced, followed by Wyoming, West Virginia, and Indiana. Tennessee ranked 26th.

Dan Bakal is Director of Electric Power at CERES, one of the environmental groups that prepared the report. He says states like Kentucky can follow the example of Ohio, which has decreased its carbon emissions in recent years.

“They have really made a move to diversity their energy mix by shifting away from coal, increasing natural gas, increasing renewable energy, and also investing in energy efficiency in a very cost-effective way,” Bakal said.

Supporters of the coal industry—including Kentucky U.S Senator Mitch McConnell—say increased federal regulation is costing jobs and hurting local economies in places like eastern Kentucky.

State leaders say a nearly $1 billion project to update pollution controls at a massive Louisville power plant will be a boost for Kentucky's coal industry. The upgrades at LG&E's Mill Creek Generating Station in southwestern Jefferson County are expected to add about 700 construction jobs. They will also allow the 1,400-megawatt plant to continue to burn coal by meeting stricter federal air regulations that go in force in 2016.

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