Imagine if we replaced coal with cleaner sources of energy that drastically reduce the chances of our loved ones suffering from a deadly lung disease. Solar and other renewable forms of energy do not emit carbon dioxide or other pollutants that eat away at our lungs and harm the planet.
In a highly unusual move, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to issue a stay on implementation of the Clean Power Plan. The federal rule, which was issued by the U.S. EPA last summer, aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector. The court’s order halts the Clean Power Plan from taking effect until a legal challenge to the rule filed by more than two dozen states and many fossil fuel interests is resolved.
The decision was an unprecedented procedural ruling – not a determination about the merits or validity of the rule – that temporarily pushes the pause button until the larger legal issues are considered and resolved. In fact, in its one page order, the Court did not provide its reasons for issuing the stay. According to an article in the New York Times, the Supreme Court has never before granted a request to halt a regulation before its review by a federal appeals court. The justices themselves did not take long to consider the details of this complicated case. Final legal briefs from the parties defending the rule were filed on Thursday afternoon; the court’s position was announced the following Tuesday.
The broader legal case about the validity of the Clean Power Plan rule is expected to move forward on an expedited timeline, but even so it could take as long as two years to reach a final resolution. The DC Circuit Court is scheduled to hear the case on June 2, 2016. It will likely issue a ruling by the fall of 2016. Regardless of that outcome, the issue is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court issues another stay and takes the case, it could rule as early as the spring of 2017 or as late as the following spring. Only then could the EPA move forward to enforce the rule, if it is ultimately upheld.
Early reactions news from KFTC members and allies across the country made it clear that people working for a just transition and climate justice are troubled but undaunted by this decision.
“I’m so glad we called this part of KFTC’s work ‘Empower Kentucky,” because that’s exactly what we are doing, and what we continue to do,” reflected KFTC’s chairperson Dana Beasley Brown shortly after the news broke on Tuesday evening.
“Our work has to go on,” said Lexington KFTC member Chris Woolery. “Energy efficiency and renewable energy are no-regrets solutions that literally pay for themselves. That’s the direction the world is moving. That’s where jobs are booming. And that’s the kind of leadership Kentuckians want. But we can’t wait for our leaders. We have to move on without them.”
The day after the court ruling, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet announced it was suspending plans to hold public hearings this spring about ways Kentucky might comply with the Clean Power Plan. In contrast, KFTC’s public engagement process will ramp up this spring, including public meetings in each congressional district.
“This gives us more time to build an even better Empower Kentucky plan and keep pushing forward,” reflected Steve Wilkins of Berea. “Unfortunately, some states like Kentucky may take this as an excuse to sit on their hands and do nothing. If so, we’ll just keep falling further and further behind. The gap will just grow wider between us and leading states that are making smart investments in clean energy. It seems nobody in a position of power has a vision for a new Kentucky. With a few exceptions, they are all looking backwards. We deserve better.”
In many ways, the court ruling doesn’t change the important work in front of us here in Kentucky. KFTC members already knew that making meaningful progress on clean energy will require long-term, creative, and determined organizing to change the conversation and build political will. In fact, that’s what the Empower Kentucky project is all about.
In announcing the project last fall, KFTC member Elizabeth Sanders said, “It won’t be easy to transform the ways we generate and use energy in Kentucky. Our economic, energy and political systems have long been shaped by fossil fuels, especially coal … We will not wait for our politicians to do the right thing … We are Kentuckians. We are our best hope for change. And together we will write a plan ourselves to make our communities more livable, strengthen our economy and support a just transition while meeting or exceeding the Clean Power Plan’s goals for cutting climate pollution.”
Empower Kentucky will take a major step forward in April, when KFTC will host a series of community conversations in each congressional district. These forums are an opportunity for Kentuckians to learn and share ideas about the energy future we want to see. Public input from those meetings – along with additional ideas gathered through an on-line survey, interviews and listening sessions – will help inform KFTC’s Empower Kentucky plan.
A schedule of the April events, which are open to the public, will be announced soon.
A strong grassroots movement toward just transition in eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia, including major federal investment in the region, has resulted in new legislation.
Carl Shoupe sends Congressman Hal Rogers the resolutions that were passed by local governments asking him to support the POWER+ Plan. Carl is a retired coal miner, member of KFTC, and member of the Benham Power Board, which passed a resolution in August 2015.Today U.S. Representative Hal Rogers introduced the RECLAIM Act (Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More). The bipartisan bill aims to accelerate the use of $1 billion in funding in the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Fund to help revitalize coal communities hardest hit by the downturn of the coal industry.
January is a time to not only look forward to the new year but to also reflect on the successes and failures of the previous twelve months. While it is easy to get hung up on our mistakes and failures, it is also important to celebrate our personal successes, as well as those made by our neighbors and compatriots. During the past year, taking actions to address climate change has been in both national and global news. Representatives from nearly two-hundred countries met at the U.N. Climate Change Conference held in Paris, France in December to discuss and agree on ways to curb the detrimental effects of climate change. In August, President Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan- federal legislation that will commit state governments to reducing carbon emissions.
KFTC and friends have had 10 years of great success with I Love Mountains Day, bringing thousands to the capital in February to let elected leaders know of our love for Kentucky’s people and mountains, our determination to stop their destruction, and our vision for Appalachia’s Bright Future. Last year KFTC leadership decided that the 2015 I Love Mountains Day would be our last.
Just as we tried over the decade to evolve the theme of I Love Mountains Day from one of just protest against mountaintop removal, valley fills and environmental destruction to one that also included value-based solutions like clean energy and economic justice for all, KFTC’s legislative strategy also has evolved.
Members gathered all over the state, from Madison County to Whitesburg to Covington to Lexington, last night to watch, process, and come up with action plans to push for adequate funding for health care and preserving kynect and Medicaid expansion, access to higher ed, protecting the arts, and community health.
KFTC Chairperson Dana Beasley Brown opened the first We Are Kentuckians rally in Frankfort by sharing a vision of healthy communities, good jobs, the best health care, fairness, racial justice and a healthy environment across Kentucky.
“Our collective voice is so important in this political landscape – the voice of real people. We’re churning our dreams – you and me – with people all over our commonwealth. And we have the solutions that can make them a reality,” Beasley Brown told the crowd of 200 gathered in the capitol rotunda on January 5, the first day of the 2016 General Assembly.
Let’s start the new year off with a declaration at our Capitol!
We have a shared vision for Kentucky. We have momentum, with raising the wage in Lexington and restoring voting rights. Now is the time for us to work even harder together, to grow stronger, and build new power.
Be in Frankfort on January 5th to shout our vision for a better Kentucky.
A coalition of citizens groups entered a settlement with Frasure Creek Mining and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet that resolves years of Clean Water Act violations numbering in the thousands at the company’s surface coal mines in eastern Kentucky.