Environment

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Trump Administration’s latest regulatory rollback for coal-fired power plants will benefit Kentucky families — despite the government’s own analysis showing it will have little to no impact.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency moved forward with plans to raise the limits on the amount of carbon dioxide new and reconstructed coal-fired power plants can emit. The EPA’s rollback will change Obama-era restrictions so that new coal plants can emit an extra 500 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.

The rollback is part of a larger push by Trump’s EPA to replace Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aimed to curb emissions to combat climate change.

Last Thursday, McConnell stood on the floor of the Senate and praised the Trump Administration for rolling back pollution standards.

“On behalf of coal families throughout Kentucky, I applaud the Trump Administration. This runaway regulation needs to be rolled back and replaced with a more reasonable and achievable set of standards,” McConnell said. “Coal deserves a level playing field and that’s what this White House is trying to accomplish.”

The EPA’s own analysis however, concludes the rule won’t have any impact because it doesn’t anticipate any new coal-fired power plants will be built, and few “if any” coal plants will be reconstructed. Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet confirmed there are no plans for new coal-fired power plants in the Commonwealth.

As a consequence, the rule change is unlikely to bring economic benefits to Kentucky families.

“The EPA does not anticipate that this proposed rule will result in economic or employment impacts because, the EPA projects there to be, at most, few new, modified, or reconstructed coal-fired steam generating units…that will trigger the provisions the EPA is proposing,” the EPA’s analysis said. [Story continues below map.]


Similarly, the rollback’s impact on air pollution is considered negligible because of the dearth of new coal-fired power plants, according to the EPA.

This year, coal retirements have neared an all-time high, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. As many as 20 coal-fired power plants have closed or are expected to close by the end of this year.

In his comments on the Senate floor, McConnell blamed the Obama Administration for the shuttering of coal-fired power plants.

But coal plant retirements have less to do with the so-called “war on coal” and more to do with the age of existing infrastructure.

Many of today’s coal-fired power plants are nearing the end of their design life. Plants like Station Two near Henderson Kentucky, are closing because they are older, less efficient and less economically feasible than newer technologies.

As coal-fired power plants retire, cheaper and smaller-scale alternatives like wind, solar and natural gas are taking their places. At least three coal-fired power plants in Kentucky are expected to retire in the coming years: the E.W. Brown Generating Station, Henderson’s Station Two and the Elmer Smith Station.

 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.