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Kentucky sues the EPA over strengthened particle pollution standards

Coal stacks at Mill Creek Generating Station
Ryan Van Velzer
Coal stacks at Mill Creek Generating Station .

Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over revised air quality standards for soot pollution.

Fine particle pollution can bury deep into the lungs and may even enter the bloodstream contributing to heart attacks, asthma, and premature death, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Last month the EPA strengthened air quality standards for fine particulate matter to protect millions of Americans from those health impacts based on the latest available health science.

This week, Kentucky’s attorney general announced a lawsuit to block the implementation of those rules, which he says would raise costs on Kentucky manufacturers, utilities and families.

“The EPA’s new rule has more to do with advancing President Biden’s radical green agenda than protecting Kentuckians’ health or the environment,” Attorney General Russell Coleman said in a statement.

Coleman was joined by 23 other attorneys general in filing the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

He said the new rule could block permitting of new manufacturing facilities, drive out good paying jobs from Kentucky, prevent new infrastructure construction and raise costs on small businesses.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and others sent a letter to the White House last October saying the new standards are not worth the potential cost, which they say could reduce the country’s GDP by $200 billion through 2031.

However, an analysis from the EPA says the new standards will bolster public health, avoid 4,500 premature deaths and save the country $46 billion by 2032.

Particulate matter is a broad term that applies to small particles floating in the air. It includes dust, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets that can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals. Some come directly from sources like tailpipes and smokestacks, others are more indirect like blowing dust.

Kentucky faces additional risks from the health impacts of particulate matter due to the number of coal-fired power plants in the state. A 2023 report from the Sierra Club found Jefferson County had the country’s third highest number of premature deaths due to particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants.

State government and politics reporting is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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