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Paducah Round-Table Energy Talks Stress Need for Unity

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Nicole Erwin, WKMS
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  In an effort to develop a set of recommendations for Kentucky to comply with President Obama’s clean power plan, a nonprofit group called Kentuckians for the Commonwealth has visited each congressional district for input. In Paducah Thursday night the group concluded a series of roundtable discussions focused on the opportunities and challenges of the state’s energy future.

The night began with upbeat, light local music, but the conversation took on a heavier tone.

The approximately 30 Paducahans that gathered at the River Discovery Center were diverse in commentary--business owners, college students and coal workers may have differed on opinions  on an immediate need to regulate the nonrenewable energy sector, however, there was an expressed desire for unity.

As one table discussed, comments complemented a broken society.

“We need to work together as a nation.” “That’s a societal problem, as a nation.” “How can we benefit all Kentuckians...that’s the problem.” “Unfortunately you need to break through the stigma of ‘you are this way or you are this way,’ we need to work together for the benefit of everyone.”

Local business owner David Tindell says the secret to a successful transition is that any change has to be less painful than current circumstances.

“We talked about how you can’t go to a neighborhood and say we are going to shut off your coal plant, by the way the 500 people you have working there, they have to apply for foodstamps, you know you can’t do that,” says Tindell.  

Tindell’s table agreed with others by suggesting that energy dependence look at what the local environment can offer. The table struggled for answers as they went back on forth on the amount of energy the dam can offer compared to coal.

“What you do is have target areas that may not have as readily access to those power plants and instead of putting sub stations you there you put in renewable energy there drives in jobs,” says Tindell.

Local coal worker Marcus Midkiff says there has to be a balance.

“I’ve got two little girls at home that I want to see grow up in a healthy environment. At the same time, you have to realize you start cutting things off too fast you better put that down [places cell phone on table ], you better turn these lights off, ” says Midkiff.

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Credit Nicole Erwin, WKMS
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  Paducah Mayoral Candidate Brandi Harless was contacted by the KFTC to help organize the event.

 

“We founded Progress Paducah on the idea was we would start the conversation about any topic...Tonight the conversation is what are the clean energy opportunities that we have across the state and I think KFTC made a great point that it's not about trying to maneuver a change that no one is comfortable with but about talking about the opportunities that are available during this transition that is happening in Kentucky’s energy.”

Harless says she isn’t as well versed in energy, but that’s why it’s important to explore all the options.

“Coal is such an important part of Kentucky’s economy and I don’t’ think we should ignore that, I think it's an important conversation to continue to have but I like the point that they made tonight which was let's talk about that while we talk about other opportunities as well,” says Harless.

City Commission candidate Frank Bennett says there were representatives from all sides of the energy spectrum which led to some “really great conversations.”

“At the end of the day we are in a city that has an energy problem that affects an economy in every way that you can affect an economy. It affects the ability to recruit new business, it affects people’s paychecks, which impacts the money you have to spend in the economy. This is a great discussion in regards to how it affects the rest of Kentucky and what needs to be done short term and long term so we can get to a place where we are more competitive, have lower power rates which would be a huge boost to our economy,” says Bennett.

The increased rates produced by Paducah Power were mentioned at each table. A reluctant acceptance that the rates would remain high was also expressed.

 

  The input provided in Paducah, along with the other six locations will be presented by KFTC via an “Empower Kentucky Plan.” According to KFTC, the report will describe ways to generate jobs and address racial and economic inequality while protecting the environment.  Close to 750 participants joined the statewide effort. KFTC expects to present their findings in October later this year.

Other suggestions mentioned during talks: 

  • Create clean environment campaigns to increase knowledge
  • Switch to electric meters that automatically shut off once user has reached certain rate
  • Vote in new leadership
  • Utilize local resources
  • Implement changes gradually to not shock local economy
  • Utilize technology: shower heads that use light indicators to indicate time intervals/energy storing paint/renewable stations
  • Research methods to make coal cleaner

Nicole Erwin is a Murray native and started working at WKMS during her time at Murray State University as a Psychology undergraduate student. Nicole left her job as a PTL dispatcher to join the newsroom after she was hired by former News Director Bryan Bartlett. Since, Nicole has completed a Masters in Sustainable Development from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia where she lived for 2 1/2 years.