Coal

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday about the Environmental Protection Agency's first-ever greenhouse gas regulations for the biggest polluting facilities.

The case focuses on a 3-year-old requirement that companies get permits anytime they construct new plants or modify existing ones that will emit a lot of greenhouse gases.

EPA's supporters and most of its challengers agree this case is narrow in scope; the court's ruling is not expected to threaten EPA's broader strategy to fight global warming.

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Kentucky’s coal industry shed more than 2,300 jobs in 2013, according to the latest numbers from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet. And most of those losses were in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields.

Arnold Paul, via Wikimedia Commons

Legislation seeking to end what some call strict Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal-fired power plant emissions has passed the house Energy and Commerce subcommittee.

Kentucky's first district Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield chairs the subcommittee and co-sponsored the bill with Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Kentucky’s coal production and employment both dropped during the third quarter of this year, and once again the state’s eastern coalfields recorded the biggest loss, according to the latest quarterly coal report.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is challenging leaders in eastern Kentucky to accept the decline of coal production and invest in a new economy to help pull the region out of poverty.

"A lot of leaders in Eastern Kentucky keep talking about ‘coal is the answer and there is a war on coal.’ I’m a friend of coal. I support the coal industry. But the coal industry’s future doesn't look bright and we have to look beyond that and learn to develop a new economy in Eastern Kentucky," he says.

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet

The Secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said he’s a strong supporter of natural gas development as a source of energy in Kentucky and elsewhere. However, Len Peters said the country will be a lot better off with a blend of options.

“If all we do is move coal-dominated electricity generation to a natural gas electricity generation is not a good way to go," said Peters. "There’s no diversification in that. We have to be able to build coal. We have to be able to build natural gas. Nobody wants to build nuclear these days so we’re moving away from a more balanced set of opportunities.”

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A western Kentucky coal company has agreed to pay $245,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that the company turned away African-American job applicants.

A statement from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said River View Coal will pay the settlement to a group of black applicants who looked for work at a Union County underground mine.

Kentucky Secretary of State/U.S. Senate

Democratic US Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is attacking the Obama administration for an Environmental Protection Agency ruling that she said will cost coal mining jobs in Kentucky.

Grimes, who’s seeking to replace Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, said she was deeply disappointed by the EPA’s decision to impose stricter limits on carbon pollution from new coal-fired power plants. 

The Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled its rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.

The proposed standard sets an emissions limit of 1000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour for large natural gas plants, and 1100 pounds per megawatt hour for coal and smaller natural gas plants.

The pro-coal message of Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was complicated by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Thursday, who blocked a bill introduced by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to ease federal regulations.

Reid's actions comes just days after Grimes called on the Obama administration to hold off on new environmental restrictions.

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell asked for unanimous consent on his  "Saving Coal Jobs Act" to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing carbon emission standards for power plants.

"The EPA has already stifled the permitting process for new coal mines; the agency has done this so dramatically that they have effectively shut down many coal mines through illegitimate, dilatory tactics," McConnell said. "The EPA’s actions ignore the thousands of people in my home state of Kentucky who depend on the coal industry for their livelihoods."

Reid quickly objected to delay the bill while promising to hold a vote at a later date despite McConnell's urgency that the measure is needed now ahead of new EPA emission standards this week.

A coal industry leader had already raised doubts about Grimes being a more effective voice for Kentucky coal operators and miners than McConnell. But Reid's maneuvering raises further questions about whether Grimes can stand up to the Democratic leader while relying on him politically to unseat McConnell.

"Alison isn't afraid to stand up to members of either party," a Grimes campaign aide told WFPL. "She will stand up for Kentucky as its next U.S. Senator. When she is in the Senate she will get things done on behalf of Kentucky's working families. Today just underscores McConnell's weakness and ineffectiveness. His influence isn't working and he's unable to deliver for the people of Kentucky."

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