Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

It is difficult to win a game if the rules keep changing, and that would appear to be the scenario now facing Kentucky's once-thriving coal industry. In a new plan released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kentucky is now expected to reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent over the next 15 years. This represents a 2 percent bump from what the EPA had announced last year it would require by the year 2030. Because the proposal has changed, the Obama administration is giving states an extra year to comply, but that is small consolation to a state as dependent on coal as Kentucky. Even though the state's electric utilities have already been bracing themselves by attempting to reduce their dependence on coal, the fact remains that these regulations could wipe out a state's entire industry and destroy a significant part of its economy. Attorney General Jack Conway is already pursuing a suit to block the new standards, and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell has spoken out against them as well. Whether these efforts are successful or not, Kentucky may suffer a huge financial blow that the federal government seems fully willing to deliver.