Washington, D.C. —
The new rules allow states to use a wide variety of strategies to reduce total emissions and won’t automatically require closing coal-fired power plants which are the biggest source of carbon pollution.
States like Kentuck,y which rely more on coal, will be allowed to emit more carbon than others, according to senior EPA officials. Kentucky must reduce emissions by only 18 percent while New York has a target of 44 percent. But states like New York, which have already reduced emissions, will get credit for what they’ve already accomplished.
Kentucky is the nation’s third-largest coal producer. But production and employment are down significantly in eastern Kentucky coal fields and stagnant in the western part of the state.
Kentucky generates about 93 percent of its electricity from coal, compared to about 38 percent nationally. While it isn’t the biggest gross emitter of carbon, because of its reliance on energy hungry manufacturing and coal-fired generating plants, Kentucky releases more carbon per megawatt hour of electricity than any of the 50 states.
EPA Administrator Gine McCarthy said one in 10 American children suffer from asthma. EPA estimates the new regulations will prevent between 2,700 and 6,600 premature deaths and more than 140,000 asthma deaths.
Environmental groups praised the new regulations. Appalachian Voices, an environmental group based in Virginia, said stronger energy efficiency programs will boost economic prosperity, creating 77,300 jobs in Appalachia by 2030.
McCarthy clearly anticipated the negative reaction from political, coal and industry sources and scoffed at it, saying the same critics said the sky was falling in the past when tougher acid rain and gas mileage standards were implemented. She said the new rules over time will increase jobs and save money.
That contradicts a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report that claims the new rules will cost $50 billion a year and $289 billion in increased electrical rates by 2030. Environmental analysts say the report is flawed. Kentucky, according to EPA, emitted about 2,158 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour of electrical generation in 2012. EPA wants that reduced to 1,763 pounds by 2030 and suggests strategies to do it — from energy efficiency, to using more natural gas, to market-based trading programs, sale of credits from those reducing emissions to others which haven’t met the new standards.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com.