Modest clean air goals and better health bring loud howls

2010_06_13 Cane Run Rd. coal plant and coal ash landfill--bethb (2)

Kentuckians would realize tremendous health benefits from significant cuts in power plant pollution. Proposed EPA air pollution limits would require Kentucky to cut carbon pollution only by 18.3% by the year 2030 – a very modest and achievable goal. Yet many of our politicians and candidates are howling against the EPA proposal and ignoring the billions of dollars in health benefits.

Here's a KFTC statement in response to the EPA announcement.

We are Kentuckians. We want what all people want for their communities: good jobs, clean air and water, opportunities for our kids, and healthy and thriving places to live, work and raise our families. We have the opportunity, right now, to build a bright future here in the Commonwealth. It won’t be easy, but we can create new jobs and affordable energy options while also shouldering our responsibility to address global climate change.

If we value healthy communities and new jobs, EPA’s proposal is a great opportunity to move Kentucky and the nation in a very positive direction. We should seize this moment to create good new jobs by shifting to cleaner and sustainable forms of energy and cleaning up harmful pollution. Many actions that are needed to slow the impacts of climate change can also generate tremendous benefits for Kentuckians through improved health, energy savings and economic opportunity. We challenge our elected officials and candidates to end their denial and obstruction and lead us to the clean energy future Kentuckians need and deserve.

On May 30-31, KFTC hosted a multi-state delegation from the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) for a conversation in Harlan County, Kentucky. CJA is comprised of more than 35 organizations, including many groups like KFTC from communities directly affected by the harmful impacts of mining and the use of fossil fuels and uranium. The conversation brought together indigenous leaders from the Black Mesa Reservation in northern Arizona as well as participants from Albuquerque, New Mexico; Los Angeles and Richmond, California; and many communities in Kentucky. Below are a few quotes from that conversation.

“This is our moment to say, ‘We aren't going to pass this problem on to our babies.’ It's time for us to step up. It's time for us to find solutions." 

Nina McCoy, KFTC Steering Committee member, Inez

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"When I was a little girl, I got a polio vaccine.  We hated it.  But it meant that in my generation we didn't get polio. Sometimes I think climate change is like that. There’s a serious problem, and for a while people think there's nothing to be done about it. But we can have an impact. There are real solutions available, including energy efficiency and renewables. I want to ensure a better future for my daughter and her grandchildren. And I think we can make a difference by acting together.”

Meta Mendel Reyes, KFTC Steering Committee, Berea 

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“We have only one space ship earth, and we are continually contaminating it beyond its limits. As we pollute, ordinary citizens who live in poor and minority communities here in Kentucky and around the world are getting the worst of it, from higher rates of asthma and cancer, to climate-related disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and drought.

“But there is another storm coming. It’s the whirlwind made up of these same citizens working together to improve our communities using new forms of energy that create and support new jobs. Make no mistake about it. We are demanding clean air, water and land, and we will vote for new energy, and new economic and political power. Together with other frontline communities, we are demanding a just economic transition and strong actions to reduce the consequences of climate change.”

Suzanne Tallichet, KFTC chairperson, Morehead

Placing limits on carbon pollution will have significant impacts in Kentucky, and many of those impacts will be positive. A strong and flexible approach to reducing power plant pollution can create good new jobs and energy savings in every part of our Commonwealth through investments in energy efficiency and clean energy solutions. These changes will also result in numerous health benefits.

EPA’s initiative is urgently needed. Kentucky is a national leader in carbon pollution and one of the states with the highest mortality rates affected by power plant pollution. Another study shows Kentucky as fourth worst in the nation for toxic air from power plants. We can save billions of dollars in health care costs and lost work/school days by cleaning up our air.

It’s worth noting that today’s announcement of a national plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants in the U.S. is arriving decades late. Members of Congress, big utilities and coal interests have had 20 years to shape a responsible approach to addressing climate change while also accounting for the needs of affected workers and industries. Unfortunately, most of those players chose instead to pursue a path of denial, delay and obstruction. Now we all face the consequences of those choices.

Our world is transitioning away from coal to more affordable and less dangerous energy options – with big implications for Kentucky’s coal industry, utilities, workers, communities, health and overall economy. Kentucky needs leaders who will face these changes honestly and work to ensure a just transition for our workers and communities tied to the coal economy. KFTC calls on our elected officials to make sure that building a healthier and more diverse economy in our coalfields is a central part of state and federal efforts to address climate change.

One place to start is to put energy efficiency at the front and center of Kentucky’s climate protection strategies. An aggressive plan for investing in home weatherization and other efficiency upgrades to our schools, public buildings, businesses and industries can save Kentuckians millions of dollars and generate thousands of good new jobs for Kentucky workers. We need political leaders to support specific actions that push utilities and their customers to ramp up energy efficiency in every corner of our Commonwealth.

KFTC looks forward to studying the details of the EPA’s proposal and will ensure that the voices and perspectives of our members are part of the coming debate. Below are some principles that members of KFTC will use to evaluate the proposed rules announced today by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy:

  • Does the EPA proposal invest in and support a just economic transition for Kentucky’s workers and communities, especially those closely tied to the coal economy?
  • Does the plan put Kentucky and our nation on a path toward greater reliance on energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy, or does it simply shift or extend our dependence on destructive forms of energy? 
  • Does the plan prioritize the health and economic security of low-income and minority communities who are often most affected by the consequences of climate change and pollution?


Some editorial reactions
Questioning the culture of coal
(The Courier-Journal)
Don't base vote on who loves coal (Lexington Herald-Leader)

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