LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
But that's just part of the story. While Kentucky got off easy in the short term it faces a bigger problem in the long term.
There are two components to President Barack Obama's climate policy: regulations issue earlier this year for new power plants and those issued last week for existing plants. It's the rule governing new plants that causes Peters heartburn.
New plants must produce no more than 1,100 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour and both Peters and Lyons say that's not feasible with existing technology.
“That will essentially eliminate any possibility of a coal-fired electrical generating unit being built again,” Lyons said.
EPA doesn't agree. It estimates that by 2030 when the rules are fully in effect, the country will still get about 30 percent of its electricity from coal, down from the current 38 percent. It's 93 percent in Kentucky.
Peters said EPA and the Obama Administration base that hope on developing technology to capture and store carbon, but he's not so optimistic. He said there are two problems to capture and sequestration: cost and scale.
“We've been separating carbon from gases for a while,” Peters said. “The issue is can we find locations near the carbon plants where we can store it.”
Peters said other technology coming on line could reduce CO2 production at its generating source to maybe 1,600 to 1,700 pounds per megawatt hour but nowhere near the 1,100-pound limit for new power plants. But he was unable to persuade EPA to accept the higher limits for new plants.
The problem for Kentucky, according to Peters, is that it must retire nearly a third of its aging electrical generating units by 2030 and perhaps half of them by 2040. And unless something changes, they aren't likely to be coal-fired generators.
But in the short term, the new regulations on CO2 emissions from existing plants will have only minor impact in Kentucky despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth by politicians and the coal industry.