In coal-mining Kentucky, shock and dismay over Clean Power Plan’s new targets – by Francine Kiefer and Ryan Alessi (Yahoo News – August 5, 2015)

Kentucky was on track to meet an earlier proposed target in the Clean Power Plan. Now the state, which has lost thousands of coal-mining jobs in recent years, plans to fight the final, more stringent rule in the courts.

It is a tense time in Kentucky. The Environmental Protection Agency has just come out with its final rule on reducing carbon emissions – the strongest step ever taken to counter climate change in the United States – and this coal state is reeling.

“We are shocked at the difference in the proposal we were given to work on last year, versus the final rule announced Monday,” said Dick Brown, spokesman for the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet, in an e-mail. The new target is a 27 percent increase in the amount of CO2 emissions that Kentucky’s power plants have to reduce by 2030, he says.

In many states, residents may be wondering how the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will affect their energy bills, for example. But in states like Kentucky, the new carbon rule arguably hits even closer to home. The Bluegrass State is America’s third-largest coal producer, and it gets more than 90 percent of its electricity from coal. Even before the carbon rule was finalized, the state had lost thousands of coal-mining jobs in the past two years alone.

But it’s not as if Kentucky has been sitting idly by, twiddling its thumbs as those jobs disappear like light down a mine shaft. Organizations have been trying to help find jobs for out-of-work miners, the state has been working to reduce emissions, and at least one initiative has been aimed at diversifying the state’s economy in coal country.

That context helps explain why the EPA’s stepped-up target was so hard for Kentucky officials to take.

In all, 16 states have tougher targets under the final EPA rule, which aims to reduce emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels in 15 years. But Kentucky’s new target is the steepest, Mr. Brown says. State officials are responding with a collective “no!” – from the state’s senior senator in Washington, Republican Mitch McConnell, to its Democratic governor, Steven Beshear.

Senator McConnell is urging all 50 states to boycott the plan, and at least six governors have announced they’ll do just that.

Governor Beshear and his attorney general will fight the rule in the courts, where Kentucky – and other states – think they have a good chance of winning, given a recent US Supreme Court ruling on another pollutant. But in the meantime, Beshear will submit a plan to meet the new target because he doesn’t want a federal plan imposed on him.

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