Influencer Spotlight: Ky. Republicans and Democrats place bullseye on EPA

06/07/2011 10:10 AM

The most influential force in the last week of Kentucky politics wasn’t a candidate or an elected official. It was an agency — and not even one based in Kentucky.

The most talked about — and verbally flogged — entity in Kentucky lately has been the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For instance, it was the subject of U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s June 1 speech in Lexington to the Kentucky Coal Association. McConnell described the EPA’s actions as declaring “war on Kentucky coal” for seeking to crack down on emissions from coal-fired power plants.

McConnell’s sharp criticism preceded a state legislative hearing on June 2 in which utility executives told lawmakers new EPA requirements will force them to invest in new technology to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. And that will translate into 20% rate increases on most Kentucky customers by 2016, executives from LG&E and Kentucky Utilities said.

That prompted Democratic state Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence — a co-chairman of the committee — to echo McConnell’s tough words.

Meanwhile, the EPA also has tried to tighten rules on coal mine permits as a way to protect nearby waterways from runoff and pollutants.

That was what sparked Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to tell the EPA to “get off our backs” during his state of the commonwealth address in February. Beshear’s Republican opponent in the governor’s race, Senate President David Williams, brought his criticism of the EPA to Washington for a pro-coal rally last fall.

Even with all rhetorical missiles flying at the EPA, the agency is not without its supporters. Some, such as Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, have backed a measured approach to increasing environmental protection rules.

Here’s the Pure Politics review of the recent rhetoric that has made the EPA the subject of this week’s “Influencer Spotlight” segment, which originally aired on Monday night’s edition of Pure Politics:


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