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Clean Energy Activists Rally for “Green Power” by Utility Companies

November 14, 2011

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Environmentalists, public health groups and concerned citizens are demanding "green power" from Louisville Gas and Electric (LG&E) and Kentucky Utilities (KU), and they took that message straight to the power companies' offices at a rally last week. LG&E and KU are seeking a rate increase to cover costs to upgrade their coal-fired power plants to meet new federal emission standards.

The Sierra Club is one organization challenging the utilities to make investments in renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels, which the environmental group contends are on the demise. Thomas Pearce with the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign says the utilities' ratepayers deserve clean energy and green jobs.

"It's unacceptable to ask the citizens to pay for investments in basically what we've always had, which is dirty air, dirty water."

The Public Service Commission is expected to decide next month on a rate-hike settlement reached last week between consumer, business and environmental groups and the utility companies. LG&E and KU have proposed a rate increase of more than $2 billion for environmental upgrades of their coal-fired fleets. If approved, LG&E residential electric bills will go up by about 18 percent by 2016; Kentucky Utilities' customers are likely to see a 9.7 percent increase by then.

Kathy Little lives 200 yards from the Cane Run coal ash pond in Jefferson County. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, people living within one mile of unlined coal ash dumps have cancer rates 2,000 times higher than what is considered acceptable.

"We're scared over here. We have children growing up in this neighborhood, and we're having to deal with medical issues probably because of it. Many people in my neighborhood are sick."

Little calls it "non-sense" to keep aging coal plants online when investments in green power, she says, are victories for the environment, job creation and public health.

"Two and a half billion dollars to outfit old coal power plants - it's ridiculous. Why put new money into old technology?"

The Sierra Club says studies show that a $1 million investment can create almost 17 renewable-energy or energy-efficiency jobs, compared to only 5.3 fossil-fuel jobs.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY