Environment

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was unclear Tuesday evening about whether his Energy and Environment Cabinet would continue working on a plan to help the state comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s final Clean Power Plan, which it released the day before.

The governor also said he would support a lawsuit against the EPA over the new rule, aligning with Attorney General Jack Conway — the Democratic candidate for governor — and reversing his previous position.

The Clean Power Plan represents the first national limits on carbon dioxide from existing power plants, with an eye toward protecting human health and the environment. It sets emissions reduction goals for each state and lets the states craft individual plans to comply. States that don’t create a plan could be subject to a federal one.

When the EPA released its proposal last year, Conway joined other states in suing the agency. But at the time, Beshear stressed that Conway wasn’t acting for him in that lawsuit, and the Energy and Environment Cabinet began work on a state compliance plan.

In the EPA’s earlier proposal, Kentucky was facing carbon dioxide cuts of about 18 percent. In the final version of the rule, the cuts are steeper — 30 or 40 percent, depending on which path toward compliance the state chooses. The vast difference between the proposed and final rules took regulators by surprise.

Now, Beshear has publicly blasted the rule and said it would have a negative effect on Kentucky’s economy. Conway is joining another lawsuit against the EPA, and in a statement released Tuesday, Beshear threw his support behind that effort.

Beshear was also vague about whether he would direct his cabinet to continue work on Kentucky’s compliance plan.

“We thought previously that we might be able to develop a feasible Kentucky-specific plan to comply with the rule proposed last summer,” the governor said in a statement. “In our current review of the rule, it’s clear that this ill-conceived one-size-fits-all plan will do significant harm to Kentucky families, our manufacturing companies and the overall economy. My next step will be to develop as much information as possible on these rules that positions the next administration to make the right decision moving forward.”

Energy and Environment Cabinet officials are still working to unpack the rule. The EPA calculates that Kentucky will meet its emissions goals a decade before the deadline, but state regulators are skeptical about the calculations. A cabinet spokesman noted that the changes in emissions goals between the proposed and final rules were starkest for Kentucky among all the states, and the cabinet is “shocked” at the difference between the two plans.