Kentuckians respond to Trump administration proposal on coal regulations

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) The Trump administration is making changes that will directly impact Kentuckians, proposing to roll back some of the Obama-era coal regulations.

The Environmental Protection Agency is pushing to allow states to set their own emissions standards for coal-powered plants.

"It's a way of life," Tyler White, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said. "It's given our state the opportunity to provide for its people."

The longtime source of energy has also become a source of controversy.

"We've seen coal production in Kentucky drastically decline over the past decade. For instance, we were mining about 121 million tons of coal in 2008 and today we're around the 41, 42 million ton," he said. "I think this is something even Kentuckians don't know, but about 80 percent of the power in Kentucky is produced by coal. And, that really gives us a competitive advantage, economically speaking, when recruiting in businesses because of our low, affordable energy prices. We have some of the lowest rates in the nation."

White hopes the announcement will create an uptick in coal production.

The Kentucky Sierra Club weighed in on the proposal, sending WKYT the following statement:

"We believe that this new “affordable clean energy” rule emphasizes affordability of energy but ignores the impact of fossil fuels in the ever growing climate crisis. This rule reflects the Trump administration’s disdain for science and ignores the overwhelming evidence that coal plays a key role in hurting the health of Kentuckians. We believe that Kentuckians must reject the myth of “Clean Coal” and to seize the untapped opportunity to transition to a clean energy economy emphasizing Wind, Solar and Hydroelectric sources.

We know that Greenhouse gasses emitted from coal-fired power plants are a proven health hazard. If these rules are finalized as they are, they would not set federal standards for lowering carbon pollution as the law required, but would instead give states the option to do just a little or absolutely nothing to lower carbon pollution.

But more importantly for Kentucky, our remaining coal-fired power plants are aging beyond their intended useful life and power companies are moving to new technology. The conversion of the power sector from coal to clean energy is a trend that is moving quickly, as noted with new solar installations from LG&E, Duke, and Eastern Kentucky Power CoOperative. This is driven by economics and by the demand from major power customers who require cleaner energy.

Reducing the regulations on coal-fired power plants will not reverse the trend of declining coal jobs. It will only further affect the health of Kentuckians due to asthma and mercury poisoning. Meanwhile, the President should look for real solutions to providing sustainable jobs for the Eastern Kentucky coalfields that don’t endanger people’s health and provide a real and lasting economic transition."

WKYT's Caitlin Centner checked in with Kentucky Utilities. The company's spokesman, Daniel Lowry, said KU should be unaffected by the announcement.

"We announced in January we were going to cut our carbon dioxide emissions by 70 percent by the year 2050, so that's not going to change. We're still committed to that," he said. "We're in the process of retiring some of our coal-fired units and we're investing in our hydroelectric and renewable energies. We rely a lot of coal now, but we do have natural gas and hydroelectric and solar. It's not going to change our plan to keep on cutting those greenhouse gas emissions and we're going to keep on doing that all the way through."

The EPA will now hold a public hearing on the proposed rule and take comment on it for 60 days.

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