Mt. Vernon Register-News

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June 19, 2014

Kentucky actually fares well under new EPA regs

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —

FRANKFORT — Kentucky politicians and the coal industry howled about the latest installment of greenhouse gas emission regulations issued last week by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

But Kentucky actually fares pretty well under the regulations that apply to existing power plants because Dr. Len Peters, secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, and his staff worked hard to influence how the regulations were written.

Last fall, Peters sent a white paper to EPA and he and Gov. Steve Beshear subsequently met twice with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to plead for flexibility in meeting the new carbon limits, especially for states like Kentucky that depend on coal-fired electrical generation to serve manufacturing industries.

In addition to Peters' and Beshear's efforts, John Lyons, the cabinet's assistant secretary for climate policy, met often with EPA and, according to Peters, “was invaluable in carrying our message nationally.”

It worked. EPA listened to Kentucky's concerns.

The cumulative national goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. But not every state has to reduce its emissions by that much, including Kentucky. The regulation takes into account special circumstances of individual states and sets different goals for each. 

Kentucky must lower its pounds of carbon per megawatt hour from about 2,166 pounds in 2012 to 1,763 pounds per megawatt hour in 2030. That's only an 18 percent reduction. Kentucky can also average its carbon rate across all forms of electrical generation which means it won't have to meet the 1,763-pound limit at each individual coal plant as the National Resources Defense Council wanted.

“I think we're most happy that EPA recognized the existing electricity generation portfolio of each state because all states are different,” Peters said. “They recognized that manufacturing states have a particular role in the national economy but also have a larger industrial component where electrical rates can impact their economies in a very significant way.”

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