Environment

None of Kentucky’s leading candidates for governor support creating a state plan to comply with upcoming federal carbon dioxide regulations.

Democrat Jack Conway and Republicans Hal Heiner, James Comer and Will T. Scott all say they would not continue the work of Gov. Steve Beshear’s Energy and Environment Cabinet to create a plan to reduce the commonwealth’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize the Clean Power Plan later this year, in an effort to reduce the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions, which are contributing to global climate change. The rule will set carbon reduction emissions goals for individual states; state regulators have the option of crafting their own plans to comply. But in the absence of a state plan, states will have to follow whatever blanket federal plan the EPA develops.

Last week, in an opinion piece published in the Lexington Herald-Leader, McConnell advised states to not submit state plans and instead wait to see if courts or congressional action will overturn the regulations. On Wednesday, Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer, Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner, echoed those sentiments in a news release.

“President Obama continues to forgo the legislative process to force his will on Americans. There is a very valid legal argument to be made against the EPA’s mandate to create this emission plan that will cripple Kentucky’s economy even further. By not submitting a state plan, we will have more time to fight this law in courts. Furthermore, Kentucky’s delegation in Congress would have more time to fight against this overreach by overriding the EPA or at the very least, defunding the EPA’s attempt to defend its position.

Beshear’s Energy and Environment Cabinet is already working on a state plan; spokesman Dick Brown told WFPL last week that the cabinet plans to create a transition document to hand off to the next administration in December.

“Because at some point greenhouse gas regulations may become a reality…it is important that we plan for that eventuality by working with energy stakeholders to craft a road map from which to navigate,” Brown said in an email.

In his statement, Comer said if he’s governor, he won’t submit that plan—or any other plan to comply with the EPA regulations. And Heiner, Scott and Conway echoed that sentiment.

“If President Obama wants to hold our tax dollars hostage in order to force his job-killing war on coal in Kentucky, then Hal Heiner has one message for him: bring it on,” said Heiner spokesman Gregory Blair. “Not only will Kentucky refuse to submit a plan to the EPA, but Hal will work with like-minded governors across the country to dismantle Washington’s crusade to cripple our economy and raise the cost of living for our families.”

Republican candidate Scott has registered his opposition to the carbon dioxide regulations, and also said he wouldn’t submit a state plan to comply with EPA regulations until the agency decided to be “reasonable.” He added that Kentucky should have a comprehensive energy plan, and the state should address emissions through that plan.

Democratic candidate Jack Conway’s campaign spokesman said the candidate also agrees Kentucky should delay any action, and not spend any state resources to develop the plan.

“Jack Conway is the only candidate who has stood up on behalf of Kentucky’s coal economy and sued the EPA,” said campaign spokesman Daniel Kemp. “He has serious concerns about the way in which the rule was promulgated and the data relied upon. The Cabinet should not take action on a plan until the court has ruled on the lawsuit.”

The other Republican candidate, Matt Bevin, didn’t return repeated requests for comment.

Brown, the Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesman, said the cabinet will continue to work on the plan throughout the year; he warned that without a viable road map to meet the EPA’s reduction goals for Kentucky, the state would likely have to follow a federal plan, which would be more harmful for the commonwealth’s economy.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.