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For Kentucky, EPA Estimates the State Could Comply With Clean Power Plan a Decade Early

Mill Creek

The Environmental Protection Agency's final draft of the Clean Power Plan includes stricter regulations than originally proposed. But under one of the two ways outlined to measure carbon dioxide emissions, Kentucky is already on track to comply a decade before the deadline, according to EPA forecasts.

The Clean Power Plan — finalized Monday — is the country’s first-ever regulation governing carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

President Obama unveiled the rules at a press conference Monday, and spoke about the necessity of curbing carbon emissions to help both human health and the environment.

But in Kentucky, the plan was greeted with dismay from state leaders. Attorney General Jack Conway announced his plans to sue over the regulations — for a second time — and Gov. Steve Beshear called it disastrous for Kentucky’s economy.

For Kentucky, the final version of the rules is stricter than the proposal. But for at least one compliance path, the EPA is projecting the state will have no trouble meeting the 2030 deadline a decade early.

Here’s what the plan says:

The state can choose whether to have carbon emissions measured by rate (as in, the pounds of CO2 emitted for each megawatt hour of electricity produced) or by mass (the total tons of carbon dioxide produced).

One way to reduce Kentucky’s rate of CO2 emissions would be to diversify the state’s electricity portfolio, relying more on low-emitting sources like natural gas, or renewable energy without carbon dioxide emissions. This would mean the state is producing more electricity with fewer carbon emissions, thus decreasing the rate.

To reduce the mass of CO2 emissions, the state just has to get rid of the power plants that are emitting the most carbon dioxide.

To some extent, that process is already under way, driven both by impending regulations and by market pressures.

And when you look at the EPA’s goals by mass, that’s where the federal regulators are estimating the state is in good shape.

When measuring by mass, Kentucky will have to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants almost 16 percent from 2012 levels by 2022. Ultimately, the commonwealth will be required to reduce emissions by almost 31 percent from 2012 levels by 2030. That’s way higher than the 18 percent goal originally laid out in the proposal.

But the EPA is also projecting that by 2020, without the Clean Power Plan, Kentucky is on track to emit only about 61.6 million tons of carbon dioxide. That’s lower than even the final 2030 goal for Kentucky set out in the regulation.

It’s also worth noting that the EPA’s projection is lower than what the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet predictedin a white paper thatthe state’s utility sector would emit by 2025. But the paper was written in 2013, and several coal-fired power plants have announced their impending retirement since then.

State environmental regulators are still reviewing the regulations and were unavailable for comment as of Monday afternoon.