EPA Rules Applauded, Criticized in Western Kentucky

The proposed rules have environmentalists pleased, but critics worried over what comes next.
The EPA's new proposed rule is already getting strong reaction from all sides. Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Kentucky Representative Brett Guthrie say the new rules will harm the economy. But environmentalists say it'll save billions of dollars and lives.

Like the wind at Smothers Park, the climate change debate is picking up.

"We have to do something," says Rick Fowler of the Sierra Club's Pennyrile Chapter. He, and other members of the Sierra Club, an environmental watchdog group, say the region should pick up a new power source other than coal.

"Electricity is important. We've got to have it. I get that," Fowler says. "Coal is not the only way to produce electricity. Gas is not the only way to produce electricity. There are a lot of other ways that are going to create jobs."

The Sierra Club says the plan will help clean up the energy industry. 40% of the country's pollution comes from coal fired power plants. But coal's backers say the rules won't help.  The Kentucky Coal Association says the proposed rules will put a dent in coal production in the Tri-State and lead to higher electric bills, and put the economy at a higher risk.

"We have one of the lowest kilowatt per hours in the nation, which is why we have manufacturing, we have aluminum smelting, we have a lot of heavy industry that's dependant on this electricity," says Bill Bissett of the Kentucky Coal Association. "And by doing this, it's puts Kentucky's economy at great risk."

Daviess County Judge Executive Al Mattingly says it could also effect future coal tax dollars.

"We're doing a portable water line extensions throughout the county. Without coal severance, I doubt we would be doing that project, so it does help with some of that infrastructure projects," he says.

But Fowler says any cost now will pay off in the future in better air and a better environment.

"Yes, its going to cost money to put these facilities into place, but once they're in place, the fuel is free," he says. "We don't have to pay fuel prices anymore."

Officials with both Big Rivers and OMU say they're reviewing the proposed rules and the effects it could have on customers and utilities.
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