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Tougher Carbon Emission Standards Expected

Sierra Club

On the heels of the latest warning about climate change in a National Climate Assessment report, the date is nearing for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue stricter standards on carbon emissions.

The crackdown on pollution from existing coal-fired power plants is expected next Monday (June 2), and environmental engineer Sarah Lynn Cunningham says the climate change report adds urgency to the need for tougher regulations.

"There's just no question in the science world that we are totally 'behind the eight ball,' and we very much need to get on the stick and get things done," says Cunningham.

Meanwhile, the president of the Kentucky Coal Association, Bill Bissett, says it's important to look at what's best for an individual state, both in terms of its economy and energy production needs. Bissett says for the Bluegrass State, mining coal remains critical.

"We don't have the wind corridors or the very strong sunshine that other states have, where these methods of electricity production might work well. What we have is the coal in the ground here in Kentucky,” said Bissett.

Bissett adds today's coal is burned in a "far cleaner" manner than has ever been done before.

As director of the Louisville Climate Action Network, Cunningham and others who are pushing clean, renewable energy say they are braced for the backlash that will come from the coal industry and many Kentucky politicians when the new regulations are unveiled.

"The industry, as a whole, wants to keep the customers on the tether of a monopoly. Continuing to burn coal in the big power plants is not the path to energy independence,” added Cunningham.

The National Climate Assessment is broken down by regions. Kentucky is the northernmost state in the Southeast and Caribbean region, where rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and decreasing water availability are key messages.

Cunningham says being in the Ohio River Valley, where the weather patterns come from three directions, mitigates some of the extremes. Still, Kentucky is getting longer droughts.

"We are basically getting the same amount of rainfall that we have gotten historically, but it's being concentrated more and more into the colder months and less and less into the warmer months, also known as the growing season,” commented Cunningham.

Cunningham adds the heat from hotter summers and warmer weather overall is placing challenges on both food production and worker productivity.

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