Environment

Kentucky’s gubernatorial candidates run the gamut in how they say they would handle upcoming federal climate regulations.

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Clean Power Plan in August. The plan sets the nation’s first carbon dioxide regulations on existing power plants and will require large cuts to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The rules encourage states to create their own individual plans for meeting carbon reduction goals. States that don’t submit plans would have to comply with regulations set by the federal government. The current deadline is next September, so how Kentucky moves forward will be in the hands of the next governor.

WFPL has held lengthy interviews with all three candidates — Republican Matt Bevin, Democrat Jack Conway and independent Drew Curtis. Each has been asked whether he would submit a state plan to the EPA, and each answered differently.

Bevin and Curtis were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Bevin said if he were governor, the state would ignore the Clean Power Plan, as well as any potentially stricter plan the EPA might attempt to impose on the state.

“The EPA has no binding authority over the states. None whatsoever,” Bevin said. “There is no legal recourse they have over us.

“The 10th amendment is very clear; the responsibility of the federal government is spelled out in very specific form. And those powers not given to the federal government are the responsibility of the states and of the people. There is a sovereignty and autonomy to each state that if the governors of those states stood on, they would serve as the last line of defense against overreaching regulation.”

After Bevin made this statement, legal experts said his argument isn’t valid.

When he was on the air, Drew Curtis told Kentucky Public Radio’s Ryland Barton that he would not submit a state plan for Kentucky to comply with the federal regulations. He later changed that position in a statement on his website:

“When the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan and the Power+ Plan recently, I came out in favor of both. Since most power plants are already on their way to compliance, the Clean Power Plan should not be a burden to Kentucky, and the investment in our rural communities from the Power+ Plan is exactly what we need to become a more prosperous and better educated state.

“On September 17th in an interview with WFPL, I said that I probably wouldn’t provide a state plan to the EPA because the EPA version seemed sufficient. I’ve since discovered that unless we do provide one, the EPA takes over and there is no recourse later to provide a state plan. As governor I’d prefer to retain control of this program, so we must provide a plan to the EPA for Kentucky to implement the Clean Power Plan.”

Democrat Jack Conway falls in the middle. As attorney general, he’s joined a multi-state lawsuit against the federal regulations, and he says he’s confident that lawsuit will prevail. Conway has also campaigned heavily as a pro-coal candidate, airing ads promoting his support for mining jobs and coal culture.

Last week on WFPL, Conway wouldn’t speculate whether he would instruct his regulators to create a state plan if the courts uphold the EPA’s regulations.

“You’re asking a hypothetical,” he said. “Let me again say, we’re going to win the lawsuit and I’m going to keep fighting. And at that point, everything has to be on the table. You have to look at what the federal government is proposing to do to you — is it going to be more onerous? Do you get more flexibility by coming up with a state plan? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But everything’s going to be on the table.”

Listen to all three hour-long News Specials: Bevin, Curtis and Conway.

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