Actions speak louder than words – and earlier this month, the Bluegrass State took further action proving its locally elected officials are more than capable of weighing the costs and benefits of Kentucky coal without the clumsy fist of the Environmental Protection Agency coming down hard on our energy sector.
State regulators and environmental groups were successful this month in holding Arch Coal responsible for the environmental impact its operations had on the commonwealth. All told, Arch Coal will end up paying $575,000 to the Eastern Kentucky PRIDE program and the Kentucky Department for Natural Resources. These funds will go toward eliminating untreated residential sewage that has been dumped in eastern Kentucky waterways and estimating the economic impact of proposed mining operations on the commonwealth.
The negative externalities related to coal are very real. Despite honest efforts, the emissions and byproducts originating from coal-fired power plants and coal mining do impact neighboring Kentucky citizens.
Just as a free, property-right respecting society would not allow a family to dispose of a bag of garbage by hurling it into the their neighbor’s backyard, that same society ought not allow industry to dispose of industrial byproducts by dumping those pollutants into Kentuckians’ backyard.
The real question is who should enforce these Kentuckians’ property rights by holding industry accountable for its true costs to society. The commonwealth’s success in holding Arch Coal responsible for the true costs of its operations is further evidence that the EPA is far from needed in Kentucky. An agency ought to weigh the costs and benefits of an industry when enforcing property rights.
While the EPA is sure good at magnifying the costs of Kentucky’s energy sector, it seems to be totally blind to the benefits.