Opinion – Katelyn Bunning: Guaranteeing Kentucky’s right to shape it’s own energy future

I have spent my career navigating the intersection of state and federal politics, and I understand that it’s not always apparent how regulations out of Washington, DC directly impact the day-to-day lives of Kentuckians. The federal government, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has become increasingly aggressive in imposing its political will on states, often in a way that is misaligned with local needs. As a result, many states, including ours, risk losing control over a key pillar of our economy.

An extreme example of this happened just a month ago, when the EPA announced a barrage of new rules designed to shut down power plants that Kentucky relies on for most of its electricity. Left unchanged, these rules will result in higher power bills and more frequent blackouts, hurting quality of life and stunting our economy at a time when many families and small businesses can least afford it.

Kentucky has rightfully pushed back, joining 24 other states in suing the EPA to block the so-called carbon rule, arguably the most dangerous of the bunch. The members of Dependable Power First Kentucky are grateful to Attorney General Russell Coleman for his leadership in this effort. Hopefully, the states will prevail. But even if we do, we can no longer take the future of our electrical grid for granted. Fortunately, Kentucky has already been more proactive than many other states in creating guardrails against federal overreach.

Kentucky has benefited from its rich, local energy reserves that have long powered our economy and provided jobs and affordable electricity for millions. However, this has also put us directly in the crosshairs of activist regulators who care more about retiring traditional power plants than ensuring a stable and affordable supply of electricity. The timing of these regulations is especially alarming as our energy needs continue to increase. We are currently experiencing a period of exploding electricity demand due to artificial intelligence (data centers), electric vehicles, and a resurgence in manufacturing, all of which are contributing to local economic growth.

Kentucky’s energy challenges and opportunities differ vastly from those of, say, California or New York. Policies that work well in a state with abundant sunshine or wind might not be suitable for Kentucky’s predominantly coal-based economy, which has historically provided the reliable baseload power essential for our economic stability. However, the one-size-fits-all, top-down approach of the EPA ignores this reality, putting us at significant risk.

States are better positioned to engage with local stakeholders, including industries and workers, to develop practical energy policies, and they should be empowered to use the resources at their disposal. Kentucky’s homegrown energy strategy has evolved through extensive dialogue with miners, large industrial companies, utility companies, and local businesses. This ensures that our policies are not only effective but also aligned with our needs.

By leveraging our unique strengths, Kentucky can develop energy policies that ensure a reliable electricity supply and promote innovation and economic growth. This approach will always be more effective than rigid, top-down mandates from federal bureaucrats who haven’t the slightest idea of what is best for Kentucky. For this reason, neither the EPA’s carbon rule nor any other regulation should override the ability of states to determine their own energy futures.

Katelyn Bunning serves as executive director of Dependable Power First Kentucky — a coalition of businesses and local leaders working to promote a reliable, resilient, and affordable electricity supply for all Kentuckians.

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