Watkins Expects 'Overwhelming Majority' of Energy Subcommittee to Support EPA Lawsuit

Aug 4, 2015

Credit LRC Public Information

The new co-chairman of the Kentucky legislature’s subcommittee on energy says he would support a lawsuit against the federal government’s new regulations on carbon emissions.  

House speaker Greg Stumbo has appointed State Representative Gerald Watkins (D-Paducah) to share the co-chairmanship with State Senator Jared Carpenter (R-Berea).  

Watkins says the subcommittee has plenty of issues on its plate, but one of the main concerns is the status of Kentucky’s coal industry and how it may be affected by new federal regulations on carbon emissions.

Yesterday, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said he will join a lawsuit against the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan, part of which could include carbon emission reductions up to 30 or 40 percent for Kentucky by 2030.

Watkins says he expects an “overwhelming majority” of the subcommittee to support that lawsuit.

“We all want clean air, water and land, no one’s opposed to that," said Watkins. "But we have to look at the effects and the cost-benefit analysis for every new regulation coming down the pipe.  We feel like that’s too stringent a mark to try to meet in such a short period of time. And it’s just really having a really negative impact on the coal industry in Kentucky; we feel like those are too tough a regulation." 

Credit NRDC

Watkins says EPA regulations are one reason why Kentucky’s coal industry is struggling.  More than 90% of Kentucky’s electricity is generated from coal powered plants and yet coal jobs have decreased in recent years.

“And that’s happening to eastern Kentucky: coal mines have lost over five-thousand coal miner jobs and it will be coming to western Kentucky as the EPA zeroes in on western Kentucky plants and we expect to lose a lot of jobs in western Kentucky coal mines also, so that’s a major concern," said Watkins.

Watkins says other issues include looking at lifting the moratorium on nuclear power plants as well as the future of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. He says the subcommittee plans to hold a public hearing in Paducah Oct 16 to talk about the Department of Energy's decommissioning and clean-up at PGDP and the possibilities for a replacement plant.