It was Christmas time in 2008 when the wall of a coal combustion waste impoundment pond collapsed, inundating Kingston, Tenn., with over 1 billion gallons of toxic sludge.
Last month, almost six years later, the Environmental Protection Agency released a long-awaited rule on the classification and management of coal combustion waste, or coal ash, the byproduct that results when coal is burned to produce electricity.
The development of the rule involved an extended series of public hearings, a comment period and then a long wait — over two years — to hear how new federal policies would impact the way we manage coal ash. Health advocates hoped for better storage practices, a classification as a toxic waste and federal oversight.
And the verdict is in: Industry will remain in charge of its own practices, which means, without much oversight things may roll on with "business as usual."
Coal ash typically contains some of the world's most dangerous metals: arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, selenium, and a host of others that in elevated doses can cause cancer, neurological disorders, lung disease, heart disease, birth defects, kidney failure, asthma and many other health problems.
And yet, the new rule does not classify coal ash as hazardous waste.
Kentucky has 56 ponds, and generates about 9.2 million tons of coal ash annually, ranking fifth in the nation for the amount of coal ash created.
The EPA reports that Kentucky has the most coal ash dams rated "high hazard" in the nation. This means at eight of Kentucky's coal ash dams, if a disaster occurred like the one in Tennessee, it would most likely cost human lives.
The EPA has labeled six of Kentucky's ash dams as a "significant hazard," meaning an accident could cause property or infrastructural damage.
When ponds are leaking, dust is blowing and dams are weak, it's up to power corporations to hold themselves accountable for the risks they create.
Yet with Kentucky's track record, we're more likely to tell the frustrated neighbor that their request for a clean, healthful environment is a "war on coal" and it's downright unpatriotic to make claims that a coal company would do any harm.
If a resident of a community dealing with coal ash blowing onto their front porch is frustrated with that coal ash making a mess they can now ... file a federal lawsuit.
Written by Deborah Payne, MPH, as a special contribution to the Lexington Herald-Leader, find it here.
KEF's Deborah Payne contributed this guest blog post for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). View the original post here. For more detail on KEF’s Shawnee Health Impacts Assessment, please register and attend a free webinar on November 20, 2014 at 11am ET. Download the full report here.
In 1957, the price of gas was just 24 cents a gallon, Elvis Presley purchased a mansion in Memphis and called it Graceland, and the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2, the first rocket ship to carry an animal into space. It was in that same year that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) finished construction on the Shawnee Fossil Plant, a coal-fired facility in western Kentucky built to provide energy to the United States Energy Corporation’s (USEC) uranium enrichment plant. Now, almost 56 years later, one year after the closure of the USEC plant and within the context of a rapidly changing energy market, TVA must decide what to do with two of its nine remaining units. Driven by a consent decree with EPA and environmental groups, the plant must either retrofit the units to meet new air quality standards or retire these units.
Generally, decision-making around power plants is impacted by many factors. New environmental policies, like stricter regulations for air, water and waste, are reducing the viability of older coal plants. At the same time, energy portfolios are rapidly shifting away from coal to other generation resources such as natural gas, renewable energy, and investments in energy efficiency. Most utility decisions are driven by economics and policies, while little emphasis is placed on one of the most basic impacts on the community: public health.
In order to determine the public health impacts of operating or retiring an older coal plant, KEF conducted a Health Impacts Assessment (HIA) around TVA’s Shawnee plant. The Shawnee HIA identifies the myriad of public health impacts that would arise if TVA upgrades Shawnee with modern pollution controls or if TVA retires the entire Shawnee coal plant. These impacts range from physical health impacts to economic impacts that affect a community’s access to health care and jobs that provide health insurance. Industrial jobs have been a mainstay in western Kentucky and retiring Shawnee could potentially put a strain on area workers who have depended on the work for maintaining income for food and housing. At the same time, coal power plant emissions have contributed to the region’s poor air and water quality, potentially affecting increased rates of asthma and cardiac health concerns, and compromising water resources that threaten public health and aquatic ecosystems. Retrofitting the plant would extend the life of the aging facility but the question continues to remain: at what expense?
HIAs can be useful for many different areas of decision-making. As Paducah and McCracken County residents and leaders consider next steps around jobs and industry, the HIA will be an important tool for helping them think about the future. HIAs are a great way to use health data in a real life setting—including issues such as economics, jobs, education and healthcare—in a manner that ensures public health is considered in policy development. The HIA process, which strongly relied on the participation and leadership of community members, is intended to support TVA as well as local leaders make health-informed choices when it comes to the future of their power plants. As for shifts in industrial options, community and economic development leaders can work to ensure that new industries invited into the area, follow standard health and safety guidelines and provide sufficient wages for the workers. Making health a priority is good for business and good for the community.
TVA is accepting comments and suggestions from the public as it works to shape its 20 year energy plan, known as the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), as well as for the specific decision around retrofit or retirement scenarios of two units at the plant. TVA is scheduled to release a draft IRP in the first part of 2015. They also expect to release a draft environmental assessment for public comment in mid-December on the decisions for Shawnee Units 1 and 4. Please stay tuned to learn more about how you can weigh in on the future of the Shawnee coal plant and TVA’s energy future!
- See more at: http://blog.cleanenergy.org/2014/11/20/kentucky-group-studies-health-effects-of-aging-tva-coal-plant/#sthash.uNlX1Hnr.dpuf
For the first time in public debate with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Senator Mitch McConnell vocalized why coal is no longer king in this country. It’s because it affects our health. Wow. Of course McConnell was actually quoting his colleague, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on why he would not move new policies to expand coal in the US: “We talk about cost competitiveness, but one thing we fail to talk about is the costs that you don't see on the bottom line. That is: Coal makes us sick. ” Yes, a few words of truth did actually role out of Washington D.C.
What is interesting is that McConnell made this point as if health was something we don’t actually care about in Kentucky. He acts as if this was never a reason to think critically about a form of energy that creates the highest levels of health impacting pollution in the world. It’s rather ironic that the Senator pointed to health as a poor excuse for influencing policy when our state has some of the most expensive and worst health rankings in the nation. We may frequently be number one in basketball but we’re also number one in cancer, number two for lung disease and eighth for cardiovascular deaths. Poor air quality compounded by coal emissions is a strong factor in way too many of these cases.
The West African Ebola epidemic is terrifying. The disease kills swiftly and indiscriminately, leaving communities rattled by loss. The idea of this disease creeping across our borders and into our own lives has changed the way we pay attention to health. This awareness is critical. The reality is that more people will die from emissions caused by power plants in the coming year than will ever die from an Ebola outbreak in the US. The Clean Air Task Force estimates that 259 Kentuckians die annually as a result of the emissions from coal fired power plants in our state. It’s a silent killer but far more risky.
This week’s debate between McConnell and Grimes revealed very little about what the candidates would do to move Kentucky out of our number two rank for poorest health in the nation. Very little was shared about improving health literacy or plans to prepare for the health threats of our rapidly shifting climate. But maybe, just maybe, a few Kentuckians got it when McConnell quoted why our nation’s leadership is moving away from coal. “…It’s because coal is bad for our health.” Yes, Senator McConnell. You said it. It is. Now let’s take the steps to change that.
This blog post was written by Heather Warman and Deborah Payne as a special contribution to the Courier-Journal, available here.
This Sunday, an estimated 400,000 people from across the country and around the world filled the streets of Manhattan for the People’s Climate March asking UN leaders to take aggressive actions towards climate mitigation. 400,000 people can create a lot of noise. Cheers that traveled from one end of the march to the other were moving, energizing and generated a ground swell of hope for this very long movement towards change. The question remains, however, around whether or not that swell can be heard back here in Kentucky.
When posting about the health concerns a group of health professionals and I represented at the march, a local friend responded, “I don’t believe a bit of it.” Okay. Let’s take a moment and recognize that, yes, this is not something to believe in. It’s something that just is whether we believe it or not. Science quantifies things that exist. We measure temperature. We measure intensity of storms. We measure rain fall and years of drought. We measure rates of disease, asthma attacks, and cases of vector borne diseases. When changes occur in those patterns we shouldn’t say it’s something we believe in. We must recognize that it just is. Climate change is what it says- a changing climate.
Bill McKibben, writer, environmentalist, and leader in the climate conversation walked the crowds before the New York City march, the largest ever of its kind. He approached the physicians, nurses, and other health professionals in their white coats and told them, “This is what matters. Right here. The health message is really what we need to be getting out.”
So the question remains, why is this such a challenge in Kentucky? Louisville is home to the worst heat island index in the country. Hotter weather has assisted insect borne diseases like West Nile and Lyme disease to creep across our state at alarming rates. The heat also magnifies the impacts of asthma and cardiovascular disease.
We are fixed on a notion that our economy and the environment don’t intersect. One crucial place where it does is our health. It is true that without a good job we can’t support our families with the shelter and nutrition we need to stay healthy. Yet without clean air and water we will always have elevated cases of asthma, heart attacks, cancer, and the impacts of a rapidly shifting climate.
Kentucky needs a vision that encompasses both realities- an economy that is shifting away from coal and a climate that is moving towards more extreme, health-impacting weather. This conversation during campaign season is about as favorable as a first grader’s opinion of a doctor’s appointment for school vaccinations. Yet if we don’t take steps today to address all of Kentucky’s complex economic and climate realities, we’re going to be feeling much worse when the ailments finally set in. Let’s be proactive and start the climate and health conversation in Kentucky today. Our children will appreciate it, and so will the politicians whether they like it or not.
This blog post was published as an op-ed for the Courier Journal, and is available here.
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
Comments on the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule, [GHG/Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants, EPA Sec. 111(d)]
The Kentucky Environmental Foundation is an organization dedicated to securing solutions to environmental problems by safeguarding human health, promoting environmental justice and encouraging sustainability. In this capacity, we advocate for strong regulations to control the health impacts of carbon emissions in the state of Kentucky.
We appreciate the EPA’s attention to the urgency of addressing climate change, and urge the EPA to further strengthen the regulations for carbon pollution in the Existing Source Performance Standards (Clean Air Act section 111d) and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
Key areas for strengthening the Clean Power Plan:
Health Impacts: We would like to see the EPA demonstrate how each of their proposed methods for carbon reduction in the Clean Power Plan protects human health. Kentucky is a state that has elevated asthma rates and cardiovascular disease, both of which are linked to carbon pollution. The Clean Power Plan does not address environmental impacts to human health and externalities of the whole fuel-cycle as the basis for decision-making.
The American Public Health Association and the World Health Association have identified climate change as one of the biggest threats to public health in this era. Kentuckians face a wide range of risks associated with climate change including more extreme weather, extreme heat, drought, and shifts in vectors such as ticks and mosquitoes that carry life threatening diseases including Lyme disease and West Nile virus. And our state has already suffered significant damage from carbon pollution for many decades.
Pollution from fossil fuels is dangerous, particularly for children, because it can trigger asthma attacks and can permanently reduce lung function. Kentucky has some of the highest rates of asthma in the nation. According to the CDC, in 2008, adult lifetime asthma prevalence was 14.7% and adult current asthma prevalence was 9.7% compared with U.S. rates of 13.3% and 8.5%, respectively.
In addition, air pollution can affect cardiovascular diseases, where Kentuckians have significantly higher rates. According to Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Cardiovascular disease accounted for 30% (12,547) of all deaths in Kentucky in 2009 and ranked 8th out of 50 states for cardiovascular death rates.
EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standards could protect our citizens more by reducing the smog that triggers asthma attacks and other health threats. But efforts by our state regulators and state enforcement efforts still leave Kentuckians near the bottom of every indicator compared to what is actually possible, or being achieved in other states.
State regulators are either unable or unwilling to strongly enforce local standards that protect human health from coal’s impacts. And the impact has been significant. A report by Kentucky Environmental Foundation called a “Health Impact Assessment of Coal and Clean Energy Options in Kentucky” outlined sources of data showing the relationships between the extraction, processing, transportation, burning, and disposal of coal combustion waste and health, while also outlining the health benefits of cleaner energy sources.
Environmental Justice: The Clean Power Plan does not do enough to address concentrations of localized pollution. We would like to see stronger incentives to protect low-income communities, who can be disproportionately affected by carbon pollution.
Stronger Reduction Goals: Even though the Clean Power Plan focuses on reducing carbon pollution from power plants 30% by 2030, the EPA estimated that we could make these reductions faster. We know we can go much further than 30% by 2030 because states are already going beyond EPA's proposal by retiring dirty power plants and scaling up renewables and energy efficiency.
For example in Kentucky, our Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy, John Lyons, recently stated that the average carbon emissions of Kentucky's fleet of coal-fired power plants should meet the new standard by 2020. That's because 11 coal boilers are already scheduled to shut down because of other EPA air quality regulations. So in other words, Kentucky can meet the Clean Power Plan standards simply by continuing their present course, with little incentive for additional innovation.
While we understand the desire for flexibility across states, that flexibility should not override strong incentives for states to “step up their game.” While the new EPA standards call for a 30 percent reduction in the nation’s carbon emissions by 2030, Kentucky’s specific goal is a cut of only 18.3 percent. Our state agencies will tell you this gives them the flexibility they need, but this degree of “flexibility” is a disincentive for real action.
We understand that states like Kentucky have a major challenge, given that 93 percent of the state’s electricity is generated from coal. However Kentucky’s progress to date allows it to remain at the very bottom of every indicator: from efficiency, to clean power, to protection of human health. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan continues the subsidization of obsolete coal-fired and nuclear power, making it more difficult to move our state forward onto cleaner resources.
Stronger Incentives for Energy Efficiency and Renewables: The Clean Power Plan incentivizes conversion of coal towards natural gas and nuclear, over conversion to wind, solar and most importantly for our state, energy efficiency. The plan focuses on end-of-stack emissions instead of the Best Available Technology approach, and only lists energy efficiency as an “option” not a mandate.
Efficiency is a particular issue for Kentucky. We are far behind many other states when it comes to diversifying our energy portfolio. Our state has no Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard or Energy Efficiency Resource Standards. And Kentucky ranks third among states in per customer electricity use while having some of the lowest per-capita income rates in the nation. In other words, our per capita energy consumption is among the highest in the nation. Energy efficiency is one of our best avenues for real progress.
What the EPA has proposed with the Clean Power Plan can move us forward. But not fast enough. Louisville, our largest city, is already the number one urban heat island in the nation. And our dependency on coal has made us economically vulnerable. Coal mining in Kentucky has collapsed, with a loss of 40% of the state’s coal mining jobs since 2011. Coal-related jobs are now less than 1% of statewide employment.
Clean energy and efficiency could create significant employment opportunities for the state. A recent study found that the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, a proposed state legislation requiring investments in renewable energy and efficiency, would result in over 28,000 jobs in ten years.
Because of our state’s strong historical ties to the coal industry, political will continues to under-value cleaner alternatives. Therefore we must rely on the EPA for those clean energy incentives.
 CDC: “Asthma in Kentucky” (2011) http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/stateprofiles/Asthma_in_KY.pdf
 Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services “Cardiovascular Fact Sheet, 2010” http://chfs.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/738A1FCB-4F89-4C25-A6E1-548D3E36BE29/0/KentuckyCardiovascularFactSheet2010.pdf
 Kentucky Environmental Foundation: Health Impact Assessment of Coal and Clean Energy Options in Kentucky. January 2012. http://www.kyenvironmentalfoundation.org/uploads/1/8/5/9/18595042/kef_health_impact_assessment_energy_report_web.pdf
 “New EPA Rule Won’t Affect Power Plants,WBKO,July 3, 2014, http://www.wbko.com/home/headlines/Official-New-EPA-Rule-Wont-Affect-Power-Plants-265749521.html
 Governor’s Office of Energy Policy. 2008. “Kentucky Energy Watch Special Edition: Electricity in Kentucky.” Retrieved May 27, 2009 (http://www.energy.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/6BD66312-4950-4312-AAF7-263E70A58A4A/0/SpecialEditionElectric12008.pdf
 “Kentucky Coal Jobs Continue Their Record-Breaking Decline” Lexington Herald-Leader, Nov. 18, 2013. http://www.kentucky.com/2013/11/18/2939551/kentucky-coal-jobs-continue-their.html
 Rick Hornby, Dr. David White, Dr. Tommy Vitolo, Tyler Comings, and Kenji Takahashi: Potential Impacts of a Renewable and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard in Kentucky. Prepared for the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development & the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance, January 12, 2012. http://www.maced.org/files/Potential_Impacts_of_REPS_in_KY.pdf
July 18, 2014--This summer, S.O.A.R. (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) is holding hundreds of listening sessions across Eastern Kentucky to gather feedback on what communities feel is required for a brighter future. The project, initiated by Gov. Steve Beshear and Congressmen Hal Rogers, has drawn a lot of attention both regionally and nationally in its effort to address a few of the toughest economic, social and environmental challenges in the country.
A recent session in Prestonsburg tackled health. The workshop of about 20 members opened with some startling statistics:
Kentucky ranks 50th in the country for total mortality, 50th for cancer, 49th for poor mental health, 49th for heart disease and 48th for the number of people who have a high school diploma.
How did we get here?
The conversation suggested a whole myriad of issues at play. Education, employment, poverty, access to medical resources, nutrition and having safe, walkable communities were on the list. But just as much, having the political and social will to address these issues was considered crucial.
The ideas for change were as diverse as the challenges.
When it comes to obesity and nutrition, elders need to be involved to teach younger generations how to grow a garden and can their own food. We need to make water safe to drink and get soda machines out of schools. We need to build sidewalks that allow folks to go outside to get some exercise and not be concerned about their own safety.
When it comes to asthma, investments in home energy efficiency can help families save money and improve air quality.
We need investments in education. We need to create health clubs that allow students to have a voice in the process. We need to pay attention to the kids smoking in the bathroom and rethink why Mountain Dew and a honey bun have become acceptable breakfast items.
We need needle exchanges to curb the spread of HIV resulting from a boom in heroin use. We need to talk about mental health as a real concern and not ignore the fallout that comes from not having a job, battling addiction and struggling with the ranks of poverty.
Some basic advice suggests that the formula to a healthy life is easy. Eat right, don’t smoke, get plenty of exercise and plenty of rest. It’s simple.
But Eastern Kentucky’s health statistics suggest that it’s not. Lasting change requires collaborations, community engagement, education, sharing of success stories and a broad look at all social and environmental indicators of health.
History tells us that political decision-making in our state has not always prioritized health. Leaders in the region have supported cuts in affordable health care, WIC nutrition programs, school nurses, Pell Grants for higher education and subsidies that provide heat for low-income families.
The reality is that if we want to make a break from our past, we’ve got to be more forward-thinking about prevention, education and how we make our investments. Eastern Kentucky is already full of ideas, and solutions are currently in action. Now it’s up to the region’s leaders, not just those in political office, but the teachers, dentists, nurses, CEOs, students and parents, to start thinking big on change. Only through the voices and leadership of Kentucky’s brightest and best will we get Kentucky moving toward better health.
Deborah Payne is the health coordinator for the Kentucky Environmental Foundation.
July 14, 2014--While recently in Letcher County, I spoke with a young man who described the economic realities of living in Central Appalachia. He told me he had to choose between "going into the coal mines and destroying the land I love, going into military service and being forced to leave my family, or illegally selling prescription drugs."Nearly a week earlier, I had spoken with a student from duPont Manual High School in Louisville who had decided he would leave Kentucky to go to college because he wanted to study software engineering for renewable energy infrastructure.
He said renewable energy was the fastest-growing energy industry, and he thought Kentucky would continue to fall behind as the rest of the nation and the world developed cleaner and safer energy technologies.
These stories spotlight the fact that while our young people are being forced into choosing between unimaginably depressing situations or leaving, our political leaders are doubling down on absolutely ignoring the needs of our future leaders and pretending our state doesn't have a serious energy economy problem.
Since the Environmental Protection Agency released draft carbon-pollution standards (something young people overwhelmingly support), Kentucky's political leaders have lined up to denounce them.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers were in rare agreement when they jointly called the standards a "dumb-ass policy," even though the policy reflects what the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet had requested from the EPA.
Secretary of State Alison Grimes and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell have come out in support of uninhibited fossil-fuel expansion. Both Senate candidates lack a vision to change our energy economy.
And then there is the June 23 op-ed by former U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis. Davis basically concluded that:
■ The U.S. should not be a leader in addressing carbon pollution because other industrial countries, such as China, aren't doing anything.
■ Kentucky should not focus on developing renewable energy and investing in energy efficiency because it would cost too much.
■ Only radical environmental activists believe we should regulate carbon pollution.
Upon closer examination, Davis' arguments do not pass the reality-check test.
■ The Pew Charitable Trust reports that China is the global leader in renewable energy investments (almost $20 billion more than the U.S. in 2013). The day after the EPA unveiled America's carbon-pollution limits, a Chinese official talked about China introducing a carbon cap of its own, likely starting in 2016.
■ A 2012 study by Synapse Energy Economics stated that the introduction of legislation in Kentucky that would require utilities to invest more in energy efficiency and renewable energy over 10 years would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 15 percent; reduce average electric bills by 8 to 10 percent; achieve net increases of 28,000 jobs and $1.5 billion in gross state product.
■ A recent Washington Post-ABC News survey found that 70 percent of Americans want the federal government to limit climate-change pollution from power plants, including 57 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents and 79 percent of Democrats.
The poll asked voters if they would support carbon limits even if electricity costs rise, and 51 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Independents and 71 percent of Democrats said yes.
So I say to Davis and all the current elected officials, young Kentuckians need leadership, not politics. It seems like the people we have elected to Frankfort and Washington are standing around pointing fingers as our families and friends are dying from cancer and respiratory disease while being forced to tell their siblings they can't drink out of the well, swim in the streams or even grow crops on our polluted lands.
All this drives young entrepreneurs and other businesses away. Will we have to look into our children's eyes and confess that we had the opportunity, but lacked the courage? That we had the technology, but lacked the vision?
For all our sakes, I sure hope not.
Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/07/14/3335619/tyler-j-offerman-ky-leaders-coal.html?sp=%2F99%2F349%2F#storylink=cpy
Tyler J. Offerman is the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition's renewable energy and policy organizer.
Read more here.
June 27, 2014--In early June, the Environmental Protection Agency released new national carbon emissions standards aimed to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide pollution thirty percent by 2030. The proposed regulations are a landmark, the first ever attempt at limiting these harmful emissions. Although the new standards were designed to allow states flexibility in reaching the target levels, many Kentucky politicians were quick to brand the effort as a new phase in the mythical “War on Coal.”
In a Courier-Journal op-ed, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) compared the new standards to those implemented in Germany, and went so far to brand them as a “dumb ass policy.” Stumbo listed three actions:“massive shifts to renewable energy” with dramatic coal reductions, a “complicated system of subsidies” and an electricity bill surcharge.underpinning the German plan. Then heposed the question: “Do these goals...sound familiar?”
No, in fact, they do not. What does sound familiar is the same old tune that Stumbo and other politicians keep singing: that renewable energy will always fail and that coal is our only reliable energy source. The Speaker’s logic is flawed when he insists that there is a direct correlation between the renewable energy policies of Germany and the United States—and Kentucky in particular.
Here are the facts:
· The U.S. has only planned to make moderate shifts to renewable energy. We will begin making reductions in the most polluting and expensive coal-fired power plants while maintaining our current nuclear power supply—not eliminating it.
· The U.S. is not setting up a complicated system of subsidies for these regulations
· The U.S. is not implementing a surcharge to pay for this transition
These stand in stark contrast to the supposed actions that Stumbo listed. Further, the Speaker failed to address some fairly major differences between Germany and the Commonwealth. At present, ninety-three percent of Kentucky’s electricity is generated from coal. The Commonwealth currently has no renewable energy policy and will be assuming only a one to three percent reduction of coal by 2016. Unfortunately, we are one of the last states to adopt any kind of reasonable energy efficiency measures. This means that the new emissions standards provide Kentucky with a great opportunity to address our dependence on a finite resource while assisting our utility providers as they transition into a renewable future.
Now, we can indeed learn valuable lessons from the growing pains of Germany. When that nation decided to become a leader in renewable energy, necessary investments had not yet been made in the grid’s infrastructure.
Germany invested heavily in solar capacity, when a more balanced approach incorporating increased wind power might have been a better option. Nuclear plants were shuttered, while new coal plants were constructed instead of modern natural gas facilities.
Finally, Germany set itself a lofty goal of becoming eighty percent renewable by 2050. To assist in achieving this, they instituted a tariff to be paid by residential energy customers while exempting the energy industry. This flawed policy created an unequal burden on ordinary German citizens.
Challenges aside, Germany understands that a fossil fuel-based energy system is simply not sustainable and it continues to work to improve the transmission & storage system so it can reap all of the rewards its renewable investments have created. We in the United States can learn from their growing pains and ensure that we do not make the same mistakes in leaving behind our extractive past and moving into our sustainable future.
In the conclusion of his op-ed, Stumbo offered some valuable advice. “We need new leadership in Washington that does more than just talk about worrying about the affect this [transition] will have,” he writes.
I agree wholeheartedly. Sadly, it seems that President Obama is one of the few currently exhibiting true leadership on this issue. We need politicians, especially from the Commonwealth, who will lead us into a sustainable, economically viable future. We need leaders to invest in sustainable forestry initiatives, local food movements, eco-tourism, energy efficiency integration, alternative energy sources and a balanced energy portfolio. We need representatives who recognize and assess the true costs of fossil fuel production paid by Kentuckians—poor health, high medical bills, and a shortened life span. And most importantly, we need leaders who can protect both Kentucky’s great natural resources and its hard-working miners by assisting them and their families through this transition by providing education and support.
The new emissions standards have provided Kentucky with a tremendous opportunity. We are now poised to take a comprehensive look at our energy policy and create a balanced portfolio that will protect our environment and increase both the fiscal and physical health of our state and its people.
Heather Warman is executive director of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014--(c)space, a project of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, welcomes its first member. Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF) will join the unique (c)space concept in early June. (c)space is designed to gather, under one roof, individuals and nonprofits working to improve the health and quality of life of Kentuckians.
“(c)space is a product of the Foundation’s efforts to collaborate and strengthen nonprofits that are working to make Kentucky a better play to live, work and play,” said Foundation Chief Operations Officer Mary Jo Shircliffe, who is project developer. “The diversity of work by the various agencies and individuals that will utilize (c)space will serve as a ‘melting pot’ for new strategies and approaches to challenges faced in many areas that intersect with health, such as education, economic development and the environment.”
Working in this new shared space with others working to improve health and quality of life was the deciding factor in the Kentucky Environmental Foundation’s decision to locate at (c)space.
“Interaction creates synergy.”” said Heather Warman, Executive Director of Kentucky Environmental Foundation. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work in such an inspirational space that will promote collaboration on important issues related to health, education & the environment.”
Additionally, KEF has an initiative that Warman says highlights the intersection between health and environment. “Engaging stakeholders from all sectors is critical for creating integrated balanced solutions,” concluded Warman.
Nonprofit leaders, business executives and a wide array of other perspective members got their first chance to see (c)space during an open house event Monday evening. A photo gallery of open house pictures is available online. (c)space is located in 5,000 square feet of office space, in the 28,000 square foot office building owned by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, at 1640 Lyndon Farm Court in eastern Jefferson County, Kentucky. (c)space has 13 private offices and 6 workstations with amenities such as free parking, visitor reception, kitchenette, use of the Foundation’s Conference Facility, etc.
(c)space offers a variety of options for emerging, scaling, and established nonprofits and individuals including dedicated, shared and flex space. “We want to give them class A space and a nice working environment, but it must be affordable," concluded Shircliffe.
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