November 8, 2023 - The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) and its three appointed members issued approval of a plan to shut down two coal-fired power plants in the state on the eve of its Tuesday gubernatorial election.
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear appointed the PSC’s three sitting members, which issued an order late Monday evening that allows Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities to retire two coal-fired units and three-natural gas units, which will be replaced with a new natural gas unit and solar and battery storage. Beshear, a Democrat who has hesitated to embrace the hardline green energy policies favored by an increasing share of his party, is competing against Republican Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron, who has made protecting Kentucky’s coal industry a key point of his campaign, in Tuesday’s election for the state’s top executive position.
“While I appreciate the Public Service Commission’s decision to keep open the Mercer and Carroll County plants, half measures don’t cut it for the thousands of Kentucky families who will be impacted by the concurrent closures,” Cameron said of the decisions. “The fight to protect Kentucky coal continues. To those who have been victimized by the anti-coal agenda, I am more determined than ever to fight for you.”
Apart from his campaign messaging, Cameron has defended the coal industry in his capacity as the state’s attorney general, suing to fight federal regulation that would inhibit the industry.
Kentucky has an energy-intensive state economy, and about 20% of the operational coal mines in the U.S. are located in the state, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The coal industry employed about 5,000 people in the state in 2022, a sharp decline from the more than 16,000 jobs the industry provided in 2012, according to data from Statista.
Beshear’s office and the Kentucky PSC did not respond immediately to requests for comment.