Ky. coal job losses focus of electric co-ops documentary

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – As debate continues over the federal government's goal to cut carbon emissions 30 percent over the next 15 years, power providers in Kentucky are taking to the internet.

In a new video, Kentucky's Touchstone Energy Cooperatives showcases how coal is not just the source of much of the electric power in Kentucky but also the lifeblood of many communities.

The goal of the 12-minute documentary called "The People at the End of the Lines" is to put a human face to a debate which it says is not an easy one to solve.

"We never struggeled to pay bills. The past year I struggle each and every month, each week, to just try to get my bills paid and keep the doors open," said Jacquelyn Detherage, the owner of a Manchester convienence store that has seen its business plummet as coal mines laid off workers. "I wish the people that have done this to the coal business would realize how bad they have really hurt this community and the surrounging communties."

The new rules announced June 2 seek to further cut carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030. But states are being given flexibility to develop their own plans for meeting their targets.

Obama initially wanted states to submit their plans by mid-2016. States could have until 2017 to submit a complete plan. If they join with other states, they could have until 2018.

It's an issue that's hot right now politically, with Kentucky's U.S. Senate race at the center of a firestorm over President Barack Obama and the EPA's initiative to cut emissions from coal plants.

The biggest impact of the proposal could be for state's -- like Kentucky -- that rely heavily on coal-fired power plants.

In 2012, Kentucky remained the third-highest coal producer in the United States. The Kentucky Coal Association estimates that coal mines employed nearly 14,100 individuals on-site at the end of 2012.

The association also says in 2012 the average price of electricity across economic sectors in Kentucky was 7.19 cents per kilowatt-hour making Kentucky the fifth lowest in the country.

"It's very early in the process to say," said Nick Comer, a spokesman for East Kentucky Power Cooperative, about the impact of the proposal and how it could impact power bills. "We got a proposal just last week that's 645 pages long with hundreds of supporting documents. It's going to take a while to weed through all that."

Comer hopes the video illustrates the hardship some folks in Eastern Kentucky are having.

"The people at the end of the line are affected when regulations go into effect. We have to comply with those," said Comer.

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