Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 10:32 am
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.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet is warning swimmers and boaters to stay away from several streams and tributaries in Eastern Kentucky.
The waterways are contaminated with E.coli bacteria, which comes from human and animal waste, and the problem is so extensive that the swimming advisories have been expanded to include all of Kentucky’s lakes and rivers after heavy rainfall.
Untreated sewage is released into streams and rivers from combined sewer systems—or CSOs—in cities like Louisville. It also runs off agricultural fields, leaks from aging septic tanks and is deposited directly into the river through straight pipes in some rural areas. Tim Joice of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance says data shows the number of stream miles affected by E.coli is growing, and it could take another 15 to 20 years to get the problem under control.
“We likely, especially in cities, will not see substantial improvement in CSO issues or insufficient wastewater treatment capacity issues for another number of years,” Joice said.
The state’s swimming advisories—which include the Upper Cumberland River, Kentucky River and Licking River—are in effect until further notice.
A lawsuit has been filed against the Tennessee Valley Authority over its plans to shut down two coal-fired units at its plant in Muhlenberg County.
The suit brought by a group of landowners and the Kentucky Coal Association argues the TVA didn’t perform a proper environmental impact statement before it decided to close the units at the Paradise Fossil Plant, and replace them with a natural gas unit scheduled to begin operations in 2017.
Meanwhile, ground continues to be cleared for the project. Speaking to reporters in June at the Paradise plant in Drakesboro, TVA transition manager Billy Sabin said the excavation stage should be completed within three months.
“That’s expected to complete sometime around the September timeframe. When that is complete, we’ll be working on getting our permits in place, and starting actual construction the end of this year to the first of next year.”
A TVA spokesman says officials are reviewing the lawsuit and will respond appropriately. The federally-owned corporation says reducing the number of coal-burning units at its Muhlenberg County plant from three to one will cut its coal reliance at the facility by half.
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’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.
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."
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.
Senator Mitch McConnell is making good on his promise to introduce legislation that would block new rules announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The E.P.A. rules call on power plants to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030. The move has been slammed by Republicans and some coal-state Democrats who describe the standards as federal overreach that will harm the nation’s economy while doing little to actually halt climate change.
The E.P.A says the regulations will help clean the air and establish the U.S. as a leader in the fight against climate change.
Sen. McConnell has introduced what he’s calling the Coal Country Protection Act. According to McConnell’s office, the legislation would mandate the Secretary of Labor to certify to the EPA Administrator that the new regulations will not lead to a loss of jobs.
Also under the measure, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office would have to certify that the regulations would not result in a loss of gross domestic product in the U.S.
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.