Incoming governor Matt Bevin has appointed retired coal executive Charles Snavely as secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet.
Snavely most recently served as the president of eastern U.S. operations for Arch Coal, the second-largest coal producer in the country.
In a statement, Bevin said Snavely’s professionalism and leadership experience are well-known in the industry.
“Charles understands the balance we must maintain between the commonwealth’s need for low-cost, reliable energy and the need for clean water and air for all Kentuckians,” Bevin said.
Snavely will oversee the state’s energy needs as well as environmental regulation.
“I will do everything in my power to further our progress on protecting the environment while helping nurture a healthy economy,” Snavely said in a statement.
One question the incoming administration will have to consider is whether to submit a plan for reducing carbon emissions from power plants in Kentucky, which the state government is federally mandated to do by September 2016.
Outgoing Attorney General Jack Conway is suing the Environmental Protection Agency over whether the state has to submit a plan. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan calls for Kentucky to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants nearly 30 percent from 2012 levels by 2030.
Bevin has said he won’t submit a plan because the federal government has no authority to force the state to comply with its regulations — a claim rejected by experts.
In a Reuters article this summer, Snavely was critical of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative — a project of outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers to attract new economic development to coal regions — saying it focused on educational efforts instead of immediate solutions for out-of-work coal miners.
“There is potential there, but while over a long period of time you can refocus the education system to teach that type of work, what about all the people that are there right now,” Snavely was quoted saying.
Snavely was vice president of mining operations at the International Coal Group in 2006, when 12 people died in an explosion at the company’s mine in Tallmansville, W.Va. Federal investigators said a lightning strike most likely caused the explosion.
International Coal Group, which was later acquired by Arch Coal, settled wrongful-death lawsuits filed by the families of the miners killed in 2011. The families argued that mine operators had violated safety regulations.