Kentucky’s Top Enviro-Regulators Just Got Booted From Office

(REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/Files)

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Two regulators in Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet were jettisoned from their positions Tuesday, including one public official tasked with administering President Barack Obama’s so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Kentucky’s Energy Secretary Charles Snavely confirmed Tuesday that John Lyons, who was named assistant secretary for climate policy in 2013 by former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, was leaving the agency.

He also added that Mike Haines, the former general counsel for the environment cabinet, was also let go.

Snavely told reporters the decision was a personal matter.

It was Lyons’ responsibility to navigate through the minefield of Kentucky’s climate change politics.

Lyons’ former bosses, Beshear and the Bluegrass State’s former energy secretary Len Peters, acknowledged that global warming was a legitimate threat to the environment while, at the same time, attempted to stymie the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate the state’s carbon emissions.

Snavely, a former Arch Coal executive, told reporters he believes it’s his job as the state’s primary environmental regulatory head to ensure regulations “are not a hindrance to any industry.”

The state’s current governor, Republican Matt Bevin, has staked out a very different climate change position than his predecessors, ratcheting up anti-EPA rhetoric and calling man-made global warming “fluff and theory.”

The angst in Kentucky is due in large part to the CPP, which was stayed in early February by a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision, ultimately freezing the EPA and states from moving forward with Obama’s signature climate change rules.

“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues,” Patrick Morrisey, the attorney general of West Virginia, told reporters. West Virginia has led the 29-state legal challenge to the CPP.

Shares of coal companies boomed after the Court’s decision.

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, for instance, received a boost in its shares leaping 10.7 percent, as did Cloud Peak Energy, whose shares surged 18.7 percent.

Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet determined that it would extend its CPP administering timeline following the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Conducting listening sessions at this time is premature because the [Clean Power Plan] could change substantially as a result of litigation, or it could be vacated altogether,” Snavely said in a written statement shortly after the Court’s decision.

He added: “The CPP’s unprecedented requirements have placed states in an untenable position relative to electricity generation, threatening energy affordability and reliability.”

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