Electricity Co-Op Chooses “New Power” Over Coal Energy and Emissions


When the East Kentucky Power Cooperative proposed building a new 278 megawatt coal-fired power plant, a coalition of local environmental groups and concerned members of the cooperative became determined to stop this dirty energy and emissions project. For the past few years groups like Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Sierra Club, and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation have been fighting the Smith Coal Plant, taking on the powerful coal industry in the heart of coal country. Today these groups have announced their hard-fought battle for clean energy is finally won.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative has agreed to cancel its plans for the coal plant and expand investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. In return environmental groups will dismiss several lawsuits against the cooperative, and will not oppose the cooperative raising rates to recover costs already invested in the now-dead coal plant. According to Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, “This is a new day for Kentucky’s rural energy co-ops, and a great step toward new power for Kentucky.”

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth helped launch the “New Power” movement which pitted a vision of Kentucky’s clean energy future against dirty, outdated coal energy and emissions. Today’s New Power movement victory suggests once again that when people are given a clear choice between the clean power of the future and the dirty energy of the past, they tend to choose the former—even in one of the most coal-dependent regions in the country. Home to 56 existing coal-fired units already, Kentucky still has a long way to go before severing ties with coal energy and emissions. But the defeat of one of the last new coal plant proposals in the country means clean energy advocates and climate hawks have a bit less work ahead of them.

It has been approximately two years since any new coal plant broke ground in the United States, thanks largely to the work of clean energy activists. Yet though the defeat of the Smith Coal Plant was part of a national movement, opposition to the proposal came from within the East Kentucky Power Cooperative as well as from environmental groups. Members of the co-op voiced serious concerns about the impact of coal energy and emissions, and some even ran for the co-op’s board of directors as part of an effort to defeat the Smith Plant. Nationally renowned author Wendell Berry, who is a member of the co-op, firmly opposed the coal plant as well.

So what does the defeat of one more coal plant really mean for energy and emissions policy in the United States? While media pundits bemoan the death of sweeping federal climate legislation for at least the next couple of years, climate hawks and clean energy activists are going quietly about the work of transforming the US energy future. Whether by defeating the oil company-backed Proposition 23 in California, convincing banks to pull out of the coal business, or stopping new coal plants and retiring existing ones, grassroots organizations are winning the fight for a clean energy future. Today’s defeat of the Smith Coal Plant marks just one more victory along the way.

Article by Nick Engelfried, appearing courtesy Justmeans.

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