FRANKFORT — Whether we like it or not, Kentucky’s dependence on electricity generated by coal-fired plants will decrease in the next decade and a half, according to Dr. Len Peters, Secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet.
Peters was discussing impending new federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations governing carbon emissions before the Natural Resources Committee.
“Getting a new coal-fired plant approved is going to be a difficult if not impossible task,” Peters said under the new regulations.
The committee asked Peters to update them on the new carbon emission standards which the EPA had previously had proposed but then delayed. But recently, President Barack Obama announced he’s directing the EPA to proceed on developing the new regulations.
Peters said because Kentucky’s economy relies heavily on manufacturing, which in turn creates heavy demand for electricity, the state’s “carbon footprint is about 50 percent above the national average.” He said between 200,000 and 215,000 Kentuckians work in manufacturing jobs.
That means the regulations on new and existing coal plants will hit Kentucky especially hard. Kentucky generates nearly 90 percent of its electricity with coal, and the state also relies on mining jobs and taxes. (Nationally, coal-fired plants produce less than 40 percent of electricity.)
Peters said Kentucky is four times as dependent on intense energy use as the least dependent states, which tend to have fewer manufacturing jobs.
Peters laid out the time lines for the proposed regulations: final regulations are to be approved for new and existing plants by June 1, 2015, after which states will have 12 months to submit implementation plans.
But Peters said meeting those deadlines will be a challenge, especially for states which don’t yet know what the actual rules will be.
Peters said he has been in contact with the EPA and is asking for time and flexibility once the rules are approved. That includes allowing flexibility within a state or region to determine carbon emission limits and time to implement the final rules.