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Conway Says He'll Join Another Lawsuit Over the EPA's Carbon Regulations

Jack Conway
J. Tyler Franklin
Jack Conway

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway says he’ll again sue the Environmental Protection Agency over new federal carbon dioxide rules. The Clean Power Plan calls for Kentucky to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants nearly 30 percent from 2012 levels by 2030.

Conway, who is also the Democratic nominee for governor, joined a group of attorneys general in suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan last year. In June, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the federal government, saying it was premature to sue over the regulations before they were finalized.

On Monday, the EPA finalized the rules — and within minutes, Conway announced the new lawsuit. He said he believes the EPA has overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act.

“It is apparent the Obama administration is doubling down on policies that hurt Kentucky," he said.

"I have challenged the President in the past and won — that is just what I plan to do in this case. This is about the future of our commonwealth and ensuring that our state doesn’t bear the brunt of an ill-conceived Washington, D.C., regulation that hurts Kentucky coal and Kentucky jobs.”

The Kentucky coal industry has been declining in recent years; the state's latest quarterly report shows fewer than 10,000 miners currently work in the industry in the state.

The downturn is the result of numerous factors including, but not limited to, environmental regulations. Market conditions such as low natural gas prices and declining coal reserves have contributed significantly to the industry’s problems.

In a news release announcing the lawsuit, Conway asked Gov. Steve Beshear to stop the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet from developing a state plan to comply with the emissions rule.

The cabinet has been working on the document with the intention of turning it over to the next gubernatorial administration in December. Both Conway and his opponent, Republican Matt Bevin, have indicated they won’t continue working on the plan, which could mean Kentucky has to instead comply with a stricter federal plan.

Beshear echoed Conway in a statement released Monday afternoon:

“I am extremely disappointed and frustrated by the huge changes the EPA made from the proposed rule. What is being proposed for Kentucky is disastrous – disastrous for our declining coal economy and equally disastrous for our very important manufacturing economy. The EPA claimed that it listened to the comments received on the proposed rule for the Clean Power Plan. It is clear from the emissions numbers the EPA has set for Kentucky that the agency did not listen to us. This rule leaves the commonwealth with few, if any, alternatives to formulate a plan without significant harmful impact to rate payers, manufacturing companies and the overall economy.”

The National Mining Association filed a request with the EPA to stay the rule, and coal company Murray Energy announced it would file five federal lawsuits challenging the rule.

Environmental groups were largely congratulatory.

Thomas Pearce of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign called the Clean Power Plan a “huge opportunity” for Kentucky.

“Top Kentucky employers like UPS are already making the connection between our changing climate and a sustainable future,” he said. “Now it’s up to Gov. Steve Beshear to expand energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in Kentucky with the Clean Power Plan to support our local industries. A strong state plan can reduce pollution while spurring clean energy development and creating well-paying, local jobs, all while saving customers money.”

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth chairperson Dana Beasley Brown praised the health benefits provided by the rule.

“As the mother of two beautiful children, I want to leave them the best Kentucky possible,” she said in a statement. “The Clean Power Plan gives us the opportunity to build strong, vibrant communities for our children. As we deploy renewable energy and energy efficiency programs to reduce carbon, we will also reduce other pollutants that harm our health.

"This is our opportunity to improve our poor air quality that today causes hundreds of premature deaths each year and costs us millions of dollars in healthcare costs. Kentuckians all across the state are ready to dig in and work together to build a healthier future, but we need leaders who are willing to fight for a healthier Kentucky, too.”

(Pictured: Jack Conway. Credit: J. Tyler Franklin)