EPA regulations will kill coal before other energy sources are ready, Sen. Smith says

06/03/2014 05:44 PM

While Sen. Brandon Smith said he’s outraged at new federal regulations of coal power plant emissions, the state can take steps to mitigate the effects on the industry by encouraging cutbacks in electricity demand.

But Smith, a Republican from Hazard in the heart of Eastern Kentucky coal country, vented frustration at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Smith said the rules, as part of a 640 page regulatory framework released Monday, will spell doom for the coal industry by encouraging states to move away from coal-fired power plants.

The rules call for reducing carbon dioxide in each state by 30 percent by 2030 and allow each state to come up with their own plans to achieve that.

Smith said people in the coal industry are not blind to the future of energy. But Smith said the regulatiosn are knocking the coal industry out before the other next generation forms of energy and technology can take coal’s place in providing reliable and affordable electricity.

“We know we are the bridge to the future and we knew that people would be crossing that bridge some time in the future, that technology would eventually get together and surpass what we are doing but it’s not there yet,” Smith said (at 3:00). “What concerns us is while we are crossing it, this president is knocking the bridge down behind us.”

Smith acknowledged that emissions from coal-fired power plants could be adding to health and breathing issues in some areas close to multiple plants. But he said it could just be one of many factors, and on balance, has helped save more lives by providing affordable power.

“It could be anything, coal could be a part of it but so could a flood zone where you’ve had floods over the years and you have flood mud in your home,” Smith said (at 7:00). “There’s a lot of factors. But to say coal is the only one, no I don’t agree with that.”

But a recent poll by the Washington Post and ABC News showed 70 percent of Americans said they favor tougher limits on greenhouse gases and that they would pay higher energy costs for cleaner power sources.

Smith said there was no question that every American wants cleaner air, but criticized people who he believes advocate for cleaner energy in the wrong way.

“I don’t ever see these people out here,” Smith said, referring to doing things in the community to help the environment. “What I do see is them drive home in their Volvo, go inside and get a nice glass of chilled wine out of their little wine cooler they’ve got and they get on their laptop while they run a hot bath and blog about how bad we are in eastern Kentucky.”

Smith went to Washington last week as part of a coalition of lawmakers with the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy, an Alabama-based energy advocacy group. But the delegation, which also included Democratic Rep. Fitz Steele of Hazard, were unable to meet with EPA officials, Smith said.

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