FRANKFORT, Ky. (7/11/13) – The following is a Letter to the Editor by Senator Dorsey Ridley regarding his views of the importance of coal on a national scale.
Whether they know it or not, every Kentuckian is touched by our state’s coal industry. It doesn’t matter if you live and work in a coal field, are employed at one of Kentucky’s hundreds of manufacturing facilities or are simply able to flip on a light switch for a little less money than elsewhere in our country, coal plays a major part in our lives.
That is why it is so disconcerting to read the news coming out of Washington, DC regarding the EPA and the administration’s position on coal. First, there was the proposed NSPS, or New Source Performance Standards, issued by the EPA for new coal burning power plants. The NSPS places an arbitrary cap on CO2 emissions on all new coal-fired power plants and is, in reality, a de facto ban on their construction. Then, the President announced that he would, by executive order, place new CO2 emission standards on existing power plants. Daniel P. Schrag, a member of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, even went so far to say that “a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”
While no one will argue that we need no restrictions or regulations on the coal industry of coal-burning power plants, we also cannot ignore the fact that coal is an abundant and American source of power that currently supplies nearly 50% of America’s power and 92% Kentucky’s power supply. Rather than attacking coal, we need to focus on where the coal industry has succeeded over the recent past and build on those accomplishments.
The coal fields here in Western Kentucky are a perfect example of the coal industry and energy companies working to burn coal in better, cleaner methods. As recent as a decade ago, the coal mined in Western Kentucky was less desirable than that mined in Appalachia. Illinois River Basin coal is higher in sulfur and tends to emit more pollutants than the lower sulfur coal from the East. However, with the advent of new scrubbing technology being deployed in existing coal-fired power plants, Western Kentucky coal can be burnt just as cleanly as lower sulfur coal. The result has been higher demand for Illinois River Basin coal and a job boom here in Western Kentucky. That boom is being threatened by these new regulations.
To paraphrase Governor Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth address from a few years back, it is time for the EPA to get off our backs. Coal has the potential to lead the effort to make our nation energy independent. An all of the above energy strategy, with coal providing the bulk load, would provide the opportunity to deploy renewable and next-gen energy sources where possible while still keeping costs low for American families and job creators.
I hope the EPA and the administration will reconsider its proposals. By embracing coal as a part of an all-of-the-above energy policy, we can create jobs, lower costs for families, and take a big step towards energy independence -- all of this with Kentucky leading the way.
Senator Dorsey Ridley
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