In America’s coal country, States emboldened to ditch efficiency

Efforts to cut America’s use of energy are coming under attack, both in Washington and in at least two states.

Ohio lawmakers held hearings this week on a bill that would scale back programs designed to shrink energy demand. Kentucky regulators began a review last month of its own energy efficiency programs after the state’s utility said their costs to consumers jumped 20-fold last year. This all comes as President Donald Trump is proposing to cut billions in federal funding for such conservation programs.

These regulatory rollbacks, surfacing in the heart of coal country where states rely on the rock for the majority of their power supplies, may help Trump deliver on a campaign promise to bring back mining jobs. Environmentalists warn that eliminating such programs could lead to the use of more coal-fired electricity generation.

“The tone set by Trump has emboldened some state efforts to roll back clean energy,”  said Samantha Williams, a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago. “This is all about ideology. Ohio has had $2 billion in net savings from efficiency programs since 2009.”

Kentucky gets 87 percent of its power from coal and Ohio gets 57 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

While some states are going the opposite direction and and beefing up efforts to promote efficiency and green power, environmental groups worry that the programs will fall away in certain places. Proponents say they benefit consumers by reducing their utility bills.

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