Ky. Energy Sec. Len Peters says he's 'pretty confident' EPA will give a little on greenhouse gas rates

05/02/2014 09:15 AM

After meetings and telephone conversations with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and her staff over the past year, Kentucky’s energy and environment secretary said he believes the agency will give “flexibility” in new regulations due out this summer.

Len Peters, the state energy secretary, said he and Gov. Steve Beshear have explained to McCarthy — who has been leading the EPA for the last year — the effect the agency’s regulations have had on Kentucky’s coal industry and how more than 90 percent of Kentucky’s power comes from coal fired power plants.

The agency is expected to announce rules governing emissions from existing power plants by June.

“I feel very comfortable that they are going to try to provide the state’s as much flexibility as they think they can. Then it’s going to be up to the state’s to figure out what is best for your state,” Peters said.

President Barack Obama ordered the EPA to draft regulation setting a national standard for carbon pollution on June 1. The New York Times and Peters say that the EPA will direct states to develop their own plans for meeting the new standards.

“In talking to her, a number of her staff, her general counsel, the deputy administrator — people of that sort… we’re pretty confident they’re going to give the state’s a fair degree of flexibility,” he said.

While Kentucky officials have been critical of Obama and the EPA’s regulation policy, Peters, who has a background as a chemical engineer, said he’s found McCarthy approachable on the issues.

“She’s been very friendly. She’s been very forthcoming. We don’t agree on everything, but that’s fine,” Peters said. “When you look at what we’re seeing transitions that we’re seeing in electricity these are some of the most profound energy changes that we have seen in the last 40 years, and she happens to be the EPA administrator when that’s occurring,” Peters said. (1:30)

This week the Supreme Court confirmed the legality of the 2011 EPA rules aimed at reducing power plant emissions that contribute to pollution in neighboring states. The rule affects 28 states, including Kentucky. Attorney General Jack Conway was one of eight attorneys general to challenge the rules.

Peters said that he felt that Kentucky power plants can meet the standards.

“If they continue to keep the same level that (the EPA) had proposed it’s not going to be too big of a burden,” Peters said.

It’s another regulation that is causing consternation for power plants in the state, Peters said. Mercury and Air Toxic standards, called MATS for short, are prompting power companies in eastern and western Kentucky to install scrubbers or shutdown their plants and transfer to power from natural gas.

((Watch the rest of the interview with Sec. Peters to hear his thoughts on climate change.))

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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