Monday, June 2, 2014

Colorado leads the way in the carbon-cutting game

Posted By on Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 4:36 PM

click to enlarge If the proposed EPA rule is adopted, we'll see a lot more of these. - SAGINAW FUTURE, INC.
  • Saginaw Future, Inc.
  • If the proposed EPA rule is adopted, we'll see a lot more of these.
The EPA's proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions comes after years of efforts in Colorado to slash pollution from coal-burning power plants.

We mention this in our earlier blog, found here, but also want to expand on the advances the state has made over the last decade.

"We knew it was coming," says Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "It validates a lot of the work we've been doing in the state, so it's not so much a major event here."

He was referring to the 2004 ballot measure approved by voters to achieve a renewable energy standard and shift to alternative sources of energy. Then, in 2010 the state legislature adopted the Clean Air Clean Job Act that requires certain power providers to obtain 20 percent of their energy from alternative sources by 2020. Last year, a similar measure imposed that requirement on electric associations.

Colorado Springs Utilities is a municipal utility and not subject to that rule, but has adopted a policy to achieve 10 percent of its power from renewables by 2020. A Utilities spokesman says officials are studying the proposed rule, just released on Monday.

"We were already on the right track," Wolk says. "We definitely feel like we're well on our way to meeting what the EPA has put forth."

Here's more from Conservation Colorado:
Colorado health professionals, firefighters, local elected officials, and members of the Colorado conservation community praised landmark new carbon pollution safeguards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency today. The new state based standards will reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants, which emit 40% of our nations total carbon emissions, while allowing flexibility for states to develop their own innovative solutions.

Colorado is well positioned to meet the new standards because of Coloradans’ support for clean renewable energy, investment in energy efficiency measures, and passage of important clean air legislation like the 2010 Clean Air Clean Jobs Act. Colorado’s early investment is a model for the nation. Colorado’s success proves tackling carbon pollution and working towards cleaner air together complements our economy while improving public health and preserving Colorado’s unique quality of life.

But if you're among those who are skeptical of forcing the closure of hundreds of coal-fired power plants, you'll want to see that your position is being sounded as well.

The Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity panned the rule as a job-killer that will impose a greater burden on households to pay more for energy, and targeted Colorado's Sen. Mark Udall, who's up for re-election this year.

Americans for Prosperity - Colorado (AFP-CO) is asking Senator Udall to clarify where he stands on the job killing EPA regulations being proposed today. AFP-CO is drawing attention to the Senator's historical support for cap-and-trade and other policies that will destroy over 25,000 jobs a year in the mountain region, according to a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce study. In Colorado, coal-fired power plants account for over half of the state's electricity, according to a report by the Washington Post.

"Senator Udall needs to stand up for Coloradans against the proposed EPA rules that will destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs and harm his own state's economy," explained Dustin Zvonek, state director of AFP-CO. "Between his wife's comparison of carbon emissions to terrorism and his closed-door strategy meetings with the Obama administration to plan the rollout for promoting these regulations, I think Senator Udall owes Coloradans a clear explanation of where he stands on these new rules."
Both Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet, also from Colorado, issued press releases expressing support of the EPA's proposed rule.
The middle ground is being taken by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who had this to say:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The IBEW is studying the lengthy rule on carbon emissions for existing facilities. We will review it with a fair but critical eye, as our concerns with the EPA’s new rule are the same as we have expressed over past agency dictates — namely that the regulations focus solely on the environmental aspect of public policy at the expense of balancing our nation’s economic and energy needs.

The President spoke eloquently over the weekend about concerns for public health and cleaner air. Like most Americans, we share those goals. It will do our nation little good however, to achieve these goals at the expense of a balanced energy portfolio capable of meeting the demands of modern society. The jobs of thousands of working men and women and the well-being of their communities are also worthy of saving.

The EPA has a track record of underestimating the impact of its rules, making faulty predictions that have cost tens of thousands of good jobs. In 2011 the IBEW and several other unions testified before the agency, predicting that 56 gigawatts of generation would be lost due to plant closings under then-proposed rules. At the time, the EPA estimated only 4.7 gigawatts would be lost. Our experience in the industry enabled us to see what the agency’s models could not. Approximately 90 percent of the plants scheduled to close were required to run during last winter’s polar vortex to prevent grid disruption. Experts now confirm that 56 gigawatts will indeed be lost by 2016. We will critically examine the new rules to determine how much additional capacity could be lost, and we hope the EPA will take our estimates seriously this time.

Despite the wishes of the President and the environmental movement, renewable energy such as wind and solar are simply not ready to replace other fuel sources in meeting the demand for electrical power and will not be for the foreseeable future. That leaves natural gas as the only viable alternative in the short term. Our nation has learned from bitter experience that relying too heavily on one energy source is not a sound policy.

We will continue to work with the President and the EPA to craft rules that are more in tune with the reality of the electrical power system and that are part of a balanced approach that moves our nation toward achieving all of its goals for the environment, the economy and our energy future.

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