New EPA rule won't affect coal-fired power plants, but older rules will, state official says

None of Kentucky's coal-fired power plants will close because of new emission standards released last month by the Environmental Protection Agency, a state official told lawmakers Thursday.

Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy John Lyons said the average carbon emissions of Kentucky's coal-fired power plants should meet the new standard by 2020. That's because 11 boilers are scheduled to shut down by then because of other EPA air quality regulations.

The real concern, Lyons told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources & Environment, is an EPA rule proposed last year that limits the carbon emissions of new coal-fired power plants. Lyons said coal plants will not be able to meet that standard and will likely be replaced by natural gas. He predicted Kentucky would have no coal-fired power plants left by 2050.

"We won't be able to have the coal fired generation we've had in the past and it will essentially drop off until the year 2050 we are going to be all gas, given natural gas prices that are in effect right now," Lyons said.

The rule the EPA proposed last year would limit carbon emissions for new coal-fired power plants at 1,100 pounds per mega-watt hour. Lyons said the best technology available for coal-fired power plants is between 1,700 and 1,800 pounds per mega-watt hour.

"That's a lot of years in the future, and technology can advance. But at this point in time it doesn't look like that is an available technology," Lyons said.

Last year 93 percent of Kentucky's electric power came from coal-fired power plants. Lyons expects that number to drop to 78 percent by 2020.

The committee, which was meeting to discuss the EPA's new emission standards, also heard from a state Chamber of Commerce official.