Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Clean Power plan a challenge to Western states, but not a death sentence

The Obama administration's Clean Power plan that calls for a 32 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 is not the death sentence Western coal states are making it out to be, mostly because "any shutdowns after 2012 will count toward the 2030 targets" and could go a long way toward helping states meet goals, Cally Carswell reports for High Country News.

For example, the Navajo Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant, both of which sit on the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico, were originally required to cut emissions by 6 percent, but that number increased to 38 percent under revised regulations, Carswell writes. That goal is not as hard as it sounds, considering "three units at Four Corners were idled in 2013 and one at the Navajo Generating Station will likely close in 2019." The 38 percent goal is one "that the planned closures at the two plants could still achieve—or at least come close to—under one of the EPA’s proposed compliance options, according to a rough calculation provided by the Natural Resources Defense Council."

"Similarly, New Mexico’s existing renewable energy and efficiency standards, plus the planned closure of two units at the San Juan Generating Station, seem likely to put the state within striking distance of its 2030 goal," Carswell writes. "PNM, New Mexico’s largest utility, agreed this month to reconsider the remaining units’ future in 2018, and environmental groups remain hopeful it will abandon San Juan. Since the EPA is encouraging participation in emissions trading markets under the Clean Power Plan, PNM might even stand to profit from closing more units. If it reduces emissions more than required, it will have credits to sell on the market, explains Steve Michel, an attorney with Western Resource Advocates."

"As the West’s largest coal economy, Wyoming in particular faces big changes," Carswell writes. "Rob Godby, a University of Wyoming energy economist, says the concern is less how Wyoming will meet its own target than how other states—its coal customers—will meet theirs. Godby led a recent study that found that the regulations could reduce Wyoming coal production by 34 to 50 percent. How big the hit will be depends in part on how much coal power Wyoming’s customers will have the option of keeping, which in turn depends on whether emissions can be offset elsewhere, by improving energy efficiency or buying emissions credits." Godby told Carswell, “This isn’t the death of coal," but he said "it is a formidable new challenge." (Read more)

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