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.
Democrat Alison Grimes has joined Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in urging the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep a coal-fired generating plant operating in Muhlenberg County.
Grimes, who is running for McConnell's Senate seat, said in a statement that an upgrade would bring the Paradise Fossil Plant at Drakesboro into compliance with federal standards, while closure would have a devastating economic impact.
McConnell met with Tennessee Valley Authority President William Johnson last week to seek continued operation of the generating plant. TVA is considering whether it should add new emission controls to two coal-fired units that date back to the late 1950s, build a new generating plant powered by natural gas, or take no action.
TVA said in a statement last week that officials are "evaluating all options."
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."
A government watchdog group is urging Gov. Steve Beshear to call a special session this fall to pass legislation to protect private landowners from companies that have said they may use eminent domain to get right of way for a controversial pipeline project.
Common Cause of Kentucky delivered a letter to Beshear's office on Wednesday.
The Bluegrass Pipeline, being built by Williams Co. and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners of Texas, would cross northern and central Kentucky.
The material to be carried by the pipeline is a liquid byproduct of the natural gas refining process that is used to make plastics, medical supplies and carpet, among other products.
Richard Beliles, chairman of Common Cause Kentucky, said the pipeline would pose a hazard risk to the state.
For Democrats running in coal-producing states like Kentucky and West Virginia, the Environmental Protection Agency's new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants provide a carboniferous chance to demonstrate independence from President Obama.
Those Democrats will probably take advantage of every chance they get to separate themselves from the president in voters' minds, since their Republican opponents will be working overtime to portray them as reliable Obama votes if they're elected to Congress.