As Gina McCarthy begins her term as top bureaucrat at the Environmental Protection Agency, Kentuckians are hoping for an attitude check from the EPA – one more open to the tremendous benefits of Kentucky coal and the commonwealth’s energy sector.Toward that end, Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, recently met with one of the EPA’s numerous regional administrators who presides over Kentucky and the southeast U.S., Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming.
Though Rep. Combs reports that the Keyes Fleming “was very open and I thought very receptive to a lot of the things we were suggesting,” forecasts for the EPA’s stance on Kentucky’s energy sector have yet to change.
And that’s precisely why Combs organized the meeting: “My intent was obviously (to address) the immediate situation of ‘Could you lighten up?’ — because it has really taken a toll on the economy and the job market.”
That may be the understatement of the year thus far, seeing as how Kentucky Power recently announced a plan that could spell the end of coal-generated electricity in the Big Sandy region of the commonwealth. In large part due to forecasts for the effects of the EPA’s newest draconian regulations, Kentucky Power announced not only the closure of its older Unit 1 generator and the nearly 300 megawatts of power production, it also announced plans to shutter its newer Unit 2 generator – which produces a whopping 750 megawatts of power.
Though no final plans have been announced for making up that kind of power in the region, what is set in stone is the loss of the 500 coal-related jobs which Kentucky Power was responsible for. Add that to the more than 4,000 coal-related Kentucky jobs lost last year, or 22 percent of the mining workforce, and eastern Kentucky may about to enter panic mode.