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 today 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. In Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attended what he called a “sham hearing” to voice his objections with the rule to EPA representatives.
“Kentucky’s assigned target is to reduce carbon emissions in 2030 by 18 percent, while Washington State has been assigned a target over 70 percent,” he said. “These targets paint an illusion by using percentages rather than real numbers—an illusion that Kentucky is getting off easy, but this is not the case. Kentucky will have to cut much more emissions than Washington to meet its target. This is because Washington does not utilize low-cost, efficient and reliable coal-fired generation and Kentucky does. Washington will only have to close one coal-fired power plant to meet its goal of reducing emissions by over 70 percent. However, Kentucky, with 20 coal-fired power plants that provide our state with 90 percent of its electricity, will have to cut significantly more jobs and reliable income for thousands of families across the state in order to meet its goal.”
(Incidentally, in 2013 Washington State had the cheapest electricity in the country: 7.06 cents per kWh. The state’s generation source is primarily hydroelectric power. Coal-powered Kentucky was number two at 7.54 cents per kWh.)
Under the proposal, states can use other measures other than closing coal plants—like increasing energy efficiency measures—to meet the target goals.
After the hearing, McConnell hosted a press conference with other congressional members from coal producing states.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul blasted the EPA for passing regulations that he argued should originate in Congress.
“This isn’t about regulations written in some dungeon up in Washington. This is about thousands of people who have lost their jobs,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers described the state of his Eastern Kentucky district.
“Miners with families, looking to work at the local McDonalds, most of them unsuccessfully at that,” he said. “Because of the war on coal that this administration has been wielding since they took office.”
Over the past two years, Eastern Kentucky has lost 6,000 coal jobs, though that’s due to a variety of factors and not just environmental regulations.
The Supreme Court determined that greenhouse gases pose a health hazard in 2007, and because of that endangerment finding the EPA is required to address the problem. McConnell and the other speakers didn’t elaborate on what they would prefer as an alternative to the agency’s current proposal, other than inaction.