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Can You Crowdsource a Carbon Reduction Plan for Kentucky?

A nonprofit is planning to crowdsource ideas for how Kentucky can cut carbon emissions to comply with federal regulations.

But a state law enacted last year, as well as the strong likelihood that the next governor will seek a policy more favorable to the coal industry, may ultimately stand in the way.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth announced “Empower Kentucky” earlier this week, with a goal of creating a state plan to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The rule sets the nation’s first limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. It requires Kentucky to cut its emissions by about 31 percent from 2012 levels. State officials have a choice: follow a blanket nationwide plan or craft their own.

The Beshear administration is working on a transition document to hand over to the next governor, but neither of the major party candidates has indicated he’ll continue that work. Republican Matt Bevin has said if he’s elected, he won’t comply with the EPA’s rules. Democrat Jack Conway has said he’ll first attempt to overturn the regulations via litigation.

Citing the September 2016 deadline, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth says it will create its own plan for the state. The group will gather input via online surveys, forums and public hearings. Once there’s been a large amount of public input, KFTC will hire a consultant to analyze the options, look at the effects on electricity rates and jobs, and craft a plan.

“We want leaders who have a vision for the role Kentucky workers can play in this next-generation economy,” said KFTC member Carl Shoupe.

Dana Beasley Brown, the group's chair, said there is potential for Kentucky to cut carbon emissions by saving energy.

“Energy efficiency is our least-cost strategy,” she said. “It is less expensive to help customers save energy than it is to generate electricity from another fuel source. Yet Kentucky lags behind in policies, investments and energy savings programs.”

In a conference call earlier this week, KFTC members said the organization was stepping up in this capacity because the state has fallen short. State officials are also constrained by legislation approved last year that lays out how the state should craft its compliance plan.

But it will still ultimately apply to whatever plan KFTC comes up with. The group will also have to convince the next governor’s Energy and Environment Cabinet to adopt its plan, or even consider some aspects of it.

John Lyons, the state's assistant director of climate policy, said the 2014 law adds another complication to the process.

“And even if the next administration were to say ‘hey, those are good ideas,’ the cabinet would have to promote those and develop regulations in accordance with Kentucky law, including House Bill 388," he said. "Then it becomes a matter of House Bill 388, its intent and what it says, to whether you could actually employ those measures or not.”

KFTC aims to have a plan finished in June. The group has launched a website with information about the initiative and is seeking input now.

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