Ky. politicians predict disaster after Obama finalizes climate change rules

08/03/2015 08:21 PM

If earlier regulations on climate change made up the political under card, President Barack Obama unveiled the main event on Monday.

And if the initial response is any indication, expect the debate to only intensify with time.

Obama announced his revised plan to reduce carbon emissions, calling the plan the “single most important step that America has ever made” in the fight against climate change during a White House press conference.

“We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last who can do something about it,” he said. “That’s why I committed the United States to leading the way on this challenge because I believe there is a such thing as being too late.”

The finalized proposal calls on states to reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent over the next 15 years. The initial proposal rolled out last year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called on states to reduce emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030, based on 2005 emissions numbers.

Because the proposal is tougher on states than originally proposed, Obama’s administration would give states an extra year to comply with the reductions.

The plan aims to dramatically shift the nation’s power grid in a move away from coal and toward renewable energy like wind and solar power.

Those reductions in coal power have Kentucky politicians taking a stand against the newly updated 1,560 page plan.

Gov. Steve Beshear issued a statement on Monday expressing his disappointment with the rule and predicting doom for the coal industry.

“What is being proposed for Kentucky is disastrous — disastrous for our declining coal economy and equally disastrous for our very important manufacturing economy,” Beshear said in a statement. “The EPA claimed that it listened to the comments received on the proposed rule for the Clean Power Plan.

“It is clear from the emissions numbers the EPA has set for Kentucky that the agency did not listen to us. This rule leaves the Commonwealth with few, if any, alternatives to formulate a plan without significant harmful impact to rate payers, manufacturing companies and the overall economy.”

Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway had already sued against the rule in its proposed form, but the judge ruled the suit could not proceed until the rule was final. Now he says the case will proceed, again.

“I will be joining a bipartisan group of attorneys general asking the EPA and the federal court to stay implementation of this rule while it’s challenged in court,” Conway said in a statement. “I believe, once again, the courts will rule that the EPA has overstepped its authority.

“It is apparent the Obama administration is doubling down on policies that hurt Kentucky. I have challenged the President in the past and won – that is just what I plan to do in this case. This is about the future of our Commonwealth and ensuring that our state doesn’t bear the brunt of an ill-conceived Washington, D.C. regulation that hurts Kentucky coal and Kentucky jobs.”

Conway said that he asked Beshear to stop the state Energy and Environment Cabinet from developing a state plan that attempts to comply with the rule.

“Doing so is a waste of time and resources,” he said.

Conway is running for governor in the Nov. 3 election against Republican candidate Matt Bevin, who also opposes the finalized rule as he did the proposed rule.

In a press release sent Monday, Bevin sought to link Conway to opponents of the coal industry and again try to tie the Democratic attorney general to the unpopular president.

“Not only did Jack Conway proudly vote for Obama twice, he has also long been funded by the Sierra Club and others who fight every day against the interests of our coal industry,” Bevin said. “Jack Conway needs to start telling the truth about his political allegiance to the extreme environmentalists who give him money. If not, he owes an apology to Kentucky coal miners for being a hypocrite on this issue.”

Bevin said he has pledged that if elected governor he “will not comply with EPA requests for Kentucky to voluntarily comply with the further destruction of the coal industry.”

As political leaders call for lawsuits, Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett said simply filing a lawsuit will take time.

Bissett told Pure Politics lawsuits can’t technically be filed until the rule is submitted to the Federal Register. The Obama administration should submit the rule to the register in the next two weeks, but Bissett said it could be longer if the administration delays.

A delay could possibly prevent suits from coming until after Obama joins leaders of 190 other countries in Paris this December to discuss a global agreement on climate change.

“While we are confident that this rule will not survive legal scrutiny in the courts, electric utilities are already moving away from coal to comply with the possible threat of this new regulation,” Bissett said in a statement. “While our nation’s economy will be harmed and electricity rates will ‘necessarily skyrocket’ as Pres. Obama announced on the campaign trail in 2008, this new regulation would be especially damaging to the economies of coal mining and coal using states like Kentucky and West Virginia.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decried the finalized rule as a likely illegal move which he said could cost billions.

“Not only will these massive regulations fail to meaningfully affect the global climate, but they could actually end up harming the environment by outsourcing energy production to countries with poor environmental records like India and China,” McConnell, R-Louisville, said on the Senate floor Monday. “They may also be illegal. That’s why I wrote to governors earlier this year, suggesting they take a responsible wait-and-see approach and allow the courts to weigh in before subjecting their citizens to such unnecessary pain.”

The White House insists the new restrictions are legal under the Clean Air Act, meaning the president will not seek congressional approval to enact the emission limits.


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