Environment

Kentucky regulators will likely not get more clarity for awhile on the formulas behind the federal government’s greenhouse gas projections for the state.

John Lyons, assistant secretary for climate policy for the state, said the Environmental Protection Agency has sent him only minimal information after two weeks of conversations.

Lyons and other regulators have questioned how the agency calculated Kentucky’s estimated greenhouse gas emissions for the year 2020 — the “business as usual” case that is supposed to depict what emissions would look like even without the new regulations.

In the Kentucky-specific fact sheet released along with the final rule earlier this month, the EPA sets a goal of about 63 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 2030. That represents a steep (31 percent) drop from what Kentucky plants were emitting in 2012. But the agency also estimates that Kentucky will come close to meeting the goal a decade early, even without the regulations. And that’s what has puzzled state regulators.

Early on, the Energy and Environment Cabinet realized that the EPA had incorrectly counted on one of the units of the Paradise Fossil Plant shutting down by 2020, Lyons said. He said the EPA has acknowledged the error, and the corrected “business as usual” case by 2020 should be nearly 66 million tons.

But he said the EPA wouldn’t tell him which other plants the agency has counted as shutting down by 2020.

An EPA spokeswoman didn’t return a request for comment.

Lyons said it seems the EPA is using a model that pits Kentucky’s generation against the whole Eastern Interconnection grid, which serves a lot of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. And the EPA is predicting that Kentucky’s coal-fired power plants will be at a disadvantage competing with gas plants and renewable energy in some of those states, so many will shut down for economic reasons.

But “that’s not the way the world works,” Lyons said. “Having one of our coal-fired units compete against wind in Iowa or natural gas in Minnesota, it’s just not how things are dispatched at this time.”

Instead, he said electricity is dispatched more locally. And that’s the realistic way to look at how Kentucky’s coal-fired plants will fare: when they’re compared against the other plants in the state.

At any rate, Lyons said the EPA has told him that the agency will release the information about which plant shutdowns factored into the model when the final rule is released. He expects that to be in early September.