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Robert Stivers | Don’t take out the bridge before we cross the river!

FRANKFORT, KY (October 27, 2023) – Kentucky residents deserve to have their energy needs met at a reasonable cost without fear of brownouts or blackouts like those experienced with Winter Storm Elliott in 2022.  The failure of a single natural gas valve on the coldest day of the year shut down the grid and caused Kentucky families and businesses needless harm and suffering.  

Last year’s events proved we need our power plants now more than ever. Yet the Biden administration is forcing the premature closure of coal-fired energy plants in favor of renewable energy by 2035 in a way that won’t meet Kentucky residents’ and businesses’ energy demands. Eighty percent of Kentucky’s energy is powered through coal, and renewables simply can’t meet our demands in the next decade. Kentucky is facing an electric reliability crisis, and this crisis will only be exasperated as Kentucky’s manufacturing economy grows.

The pandemic’s artificial shutdowns exposed supply chain issues making it clear that the United States must remain independent from the whims of overseas manufacturers. These fragile supply chain links—coupled with the war in Ukraine and now between Israel and Hamas—are causing manufacturers to relocate to the US. We must produce our needed power and can’t afford to remove our most reliable coal-fired generation capacity sources when they are needed to support our economy and national security. 

We simply can’t take out the bridge coal-fired plants provide before we cross the river into the new energy future, likely more than two decades away. During this transition period, no matter how long it takes, we must maintain energy grid redundancy that ensures you have the energy you need when you need it. 

Our Kentucky utilities are under pressure from the federal government, their parent companies, and shareholders to replace coal-fired power plants with gas and solar power. The groups calling for these closures fail to acknowledge the importance of coal in Kentucky’s energy mix. We support investing in new sustainable energy technologies but have the responsibility to do so in a manner that guarantees the safety, security, and welfare of Kentucky residents.

Kentucky needs all stakeholders—the Kentucky Public Service Commission, investor-owned utilities, local electric co-ops, and local governments—to agree that going green too soon places an unrealistic burden on the existing grid and removes the reliability and redundancy coal-fired plants provide. Switching solely to gas or renewables could mean consumers would be without the energy they need while still having to bear the burden of higher electric bills.  

In a state rich with energy producing natural resources, purchasing additional energy from neighboring states seems ludicrous. Kentucky has broken ground on two electronic vehicle battery factories in the last 18 months. While we welcome the investment these companies are making in Kentucky, we are concerned about our long-term ability to generate sufficient power to operate this growth industry.

Kentucky is not positioned to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s unrealistic regulations and still meet our growing energy demands which include the homes, schools, roads, and recreation activities required to support our burgeoning economy.  

Biden’s own federal energy experts have warned our current energy transition timeline is far too aggressive. As recently as September, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommended states step in to assert themselves before it’s too late.   

We’ve discussed this disconnect with fellow lawmakers at the state and federal levels and had conversations with those for and against the continued operation of coal-fired plants. I’ve sent two letters to the PSC explaining my views and sharing my concerns about Kentucky’s energy needs. However, I fear the PSC will crumble to the pressures of existing and proposed federal mandates and raise your rates as early as December. 

These likely rate increases are especially problematic for people on fixed incomes, which includes Kentucky’s growing senior population. Many seniors will be forced to pay higher energy fees and lower their thermostats during the bitterly cold winter months. Kentucky lives are worth far more than pandering to environmental extremists and increasing out-of-state shareholder profits. 

I’ve had multiple conversations with executives at many of Kentucky’s investor-owned utility companies, which are your primary energy service providers, to no avail. Other states like Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming, are crafting legislation that protects their energy supplies.  In Kentucky, we must take action, too. We can never again allow a single frozen natural gas valve to cripple our economy.     

The answer to our growing energy demands is to keep coal-fired plants operational until the day that renewables generate enough power to keep our homes warm and our businesses fully operational. We simply aren’t ready to cross that bridge yet.

Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), District 25, has been the Senate president for over a decade.

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