July 31, 2014--In June of this year, the EPA released the Clean Power Plan, which for the first time proposes rules that seek to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, which are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States.
These proposed rules are important for Kentuckians in a number of ways, particularly with regard to our health. Carbon pollution is a significant contributor to both asthma and cardiovascular disease. Kentucky has some of the highest asthma levels in the nation, and has significantly elevated levels of cardiovascular disease compared to other states.
This week, myself along with dozens of fellow Kentuckians traveled to Atlanta to attended one of four public hearings held across the country on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which will limit pollution from existing power plants. Thousands of citizens across the country spoke out at these hearings, demanding action on curbing carbon that contributes to climate change.
These carbon protections will help us clean up and modernize the way we power our country — a move that will make for healthier kids, families and workers, while incentivizing much-needed clean energy jobs. A 2012 study by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) found that recommended investments in renewables and energy efficiency in Kentucky could result in 28,000 clean energy-related jobs over ten years.
But rather than embrace this clean energy future, Kentucky continues to reach backward to far dirtier options. Last week, the Herald-Leader reported on a carbon-capture demonstration project at the E.W. Brown Power Plant in Harrodsburg, hyped as a potential “game changer” for coal. This demonstration project is estimated to cost nearly $20 million in taxpayer dollars. While research of this kind is always important to explore, Kentucky really needs to re-evaluate its priorities.
In reference to the Brown project, Governor Beshear stated: “The health of Kentucky’s entire manufacturing economy is highly dependent on our ability to continue to generate affordable, readily available energy.” Well if that is so, then why are we wasting taxpayer dollars on expensive, experimental projects rather than simple, inexpensive and easily achievable initiatives such as energy efficiency?
The most affordable energy is the energy not wasted. Yet currently Kentucky is one of the few states with no significant state-led initiatives to address how efficiently we use our power.
Efficiency measures would extend the life of Kentucky’s present fleet of power plants and is available to implement right now. Since our per-capita energy consumption in Kentucky is among the highest in the nation, energy efficiency is one of our best avenues for real progress.
It is ironic that the E.W. Brown plant was chosen as a demonstration for this so-called “clean coal” technology when this plant has been guilty for massive (and illegal) coal-waste contamination of nearby Herrington Lake. Tests of the water there show arsenic at more than 14 times the amount determined safe for Kentucky drinking water.
Nothing wrong with exploring options for capturing carbon from dirty coal-fired power plants, but let’s leave that to the coal companies to fund, since they made the mess in the first place. We need to get our priorities straight and realize that the future for energy in Kentucky is one that must be diversified. Expanding our clean energy and efficiency options will not only improve our energy security and reliability, but will also improve the health of all Kentuckians.
Lane Boldman is Energy Advocacy Coordinator for the Kentucky Environmental Foundation