EPA

The coal industry made its presence known in Pittsburgh this week for public hearings on President Obama's controversial plan to address climate change. A key element is rules the Environmental Protection Agency proposed in June. They would cut greenhouse gas emissions — chiefly carbon dioxide — from existing power plants. The national goal is 30 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

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.

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."

Tennessee Valley Authority

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.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says proposed federal regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants provide the state with some “flexibility” in meeting government targets.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced this month that the nation must reduce carbon emissions created by burning coal by 30 percent.

“I am glad that the EPA recognized that states need flexibility. We tried to make that point with them over and over again as they developed this rule,” said Beshear. “What I’m concerned about is they, I’m not sure they’ve given us as much flexibility as we need.”

An analysis by Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance research arm found that Kentucky could actually be able to increase its carbon emissions up to 4 percent under the EPA rules.

“We all want a clean environment, and I think we all share that goal. It’s a difference in balance and how we phase in those standards and how we can reach them, and at the same time keep coal jobs in the coal fields and keep manufacturing jobs in Kentucky,” said Beshear.

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.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has come out strongly against new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.  In a written statement released Tuesday the Chamber says Kentucky residents may be affected more than any other state in the nation by the new standards which seek to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030. 

The Chamber says the new regulations will cost jobs, drive up utility rates for homeowners and eliminate Kentucky’s competitive advantage when it comes to attracting industries with the promise of low energy prices.  

“Kentucky's long-standing advantage of offering low electric rates has allowed our state to recruit tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs that now support Kentucky families. Under this energy proposal, that advantage would be wiped off the board and Kentucky would suffer the consequences for generations to come,” the release stated.

 The EPA along with the White House and many environmental groups defend the standards, citing carbon’s effect on climate change and respiratory health.

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