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KY Environmentalist to Top Gov Candidates: “Quit Courting Coal”

May 31, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The top opponents in Kentucky's race for Governor, incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear and Republican Senate President David Williams, both pledge to take on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over what they see as overreaching regulations. However, long-time environmental activist Tom FitzGerald, head of the Kentucky Resources Council, contends that the EPA under President Obama is only demanding the kind of water quality accountability that was allowed to slide decades before.

"There's certainly ways to engineer in order to greatly reduce the current ecological impact. You know, it's not done because pursuing excellence may dip into your bottom line somewhat. And, when mediocrity is all that you need to do in order to get a permit, why pursue excellence?"

FitzGerald says coal shares the blame in causing the overload of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. He believes the move away from fossil fuel energy is inevitable but is just not coming soon.

"The National Academy of Sciences predicted that there will be a range of either 50 percent more coal usage or 20 percent less. So, in the short term, no, coal is not going to be stop being mined. It can be mined much more responsibly than it's being mined."

In order to hedge against rising utility costs, FitzGerald advises those in office, or those seeking office, to aggressively push alternative forms of energy instead of courting coal.

"We've got the solar resources. We have the wind resources. We have hydro resources. And the fact is that we are throwing all of our eggs in the basket of an artificially cheap fuel that's no longer going to be cheap; we are going to be flatfooted in facing the future."

The so-called "federal government's war on coal" is also expected to play out in Kentucky's race for attorney general. Pro-coal forces characterize the EPA's pollution crack-down as punitive and potentially job-crushing.

Wednesday, Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities are expected to file a request with the Public Service Commission to grant rate hikes over the next five years. Company officials claim the increases are needed to comply with new federal environmental regulations on coal-fueled power plants.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY