Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gooch leads Kentucky law maker charge to support of coal

J-E News Editor
A bill sponsored by State Representative Jim Gooch of Providence was signed into a law last week as the Kentucky legislature seeks to take a stand against tough Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that threaten the future of the Commonwealth’s coal industry.
Gooch, who serves as Chairman of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, introduced the bill, which enables the state push back against expected anti-coal regulations from the U.S. EPA.
“When the EPA set standards for new coal powered plants, they set standards that cannot be reached,” said Gooch. “When the EPA makes regulations, they have their own regulations and laws that they have to follow. This bill was about making sure that they in fact follow the law and that Kentucky has right to push back.”
Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo called House Bill 388 a victory for Kentucky families.  

“For over a century, coal has been one of the most important; and a central part of Kentucky’s economy,” said Rep. Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg.  “With bipartisan support, the General Assembly has spoken and said loudly that we will do all we can to protect our ability to mine and use this precious natural resource.”
EPA greenhouse gas emissions proposals could result in the closure of many existing coal-fired power plants.   Some estimates predict these regulations could result in 20 percent higher energy rates for Kentucky consumers and cost the state more than 40,000 jobs.  However, the Clean Air Act specifically gives states, not the EPA,  primary responsibility for determining greenhouse gas standards for power plants.  HB 388 empowers Kentucky to create its own common sense emission standards in a manner that will improve the environment without hurting the economy.  Coal accounts for 93 percent of Kentucky’s power generation and gives Kentucky the second lowest Kilowatt per-hour in the nation, a distinct economic development advantage, especially for manufacturers, businesses, and households.
Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association, praised the Kentucky House and State Senate for tackling this issue swiftly and unanimously.  
“Today, every member of the Kentucky Legislature, especially the leaders in each chamber, put Kentuckians first by passing a bill that will make sure Kentucky, not the Federal Government, has control over its economic and energy resources now and in the future.”
Gooch added that his biggest concern now was that on a national level everyone is looking towards alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. He calls those ‘just-in-time” energy power sources.
“Coal, hydro and nuclear plants have traditionally provided the base load electric generation,” Gooch explained. “People don’t understand that when you flip a light switch on, the power is there because of base load electric generation.”
According to Gooch, the base load generation plants are reliable because they have an on site fuel source waiting to be used. 
“Coal plants usually have a 30-45 day stock pile on site,” he said. “If there is water behind a dam, you have a power source just waiting to be used.”
Solar and wind plants, he pointed out, are subject to natural conditions such as the weather. A calm, windless day or a cloudy day could all but put those plants out of service.
In recent years the big national push has been to switch to natural gas powered plants. According to Gooch, those plants also have a one major drawback that no one is talking about.
“At this rate, we do not have the gas lines in the ground to meet the demand,” he said. “Gas power plants rely on the natural gas pipeline to generate electricity. If you lose one pipeline, the whole system shuts down.”