DENVER — The Obama administration draft proposal set to be released Monday, the strongest federal action ever taken to combat climate change, follows Colorado’s lead in targeting greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.
The proposal, first reported by the Wall Street Journal Sunday, sets a goal of reducing carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030.
States will be allowed to choose from an array policy options how best to achieve the pollution cuts.
Rather than immediately shutting down coal plants, states will be allowed to reduce emissions by making changes across their electricity systems – energy efficiency, shifting from coal to natural gas, investing in renewable energy and discounts to encourage consumers to move to off-peak hours.
Colorado has been pursuing one of those options, converting coal plants to natural gas, for nearly four years, since the passage of 2010’s Clean Air Clean Jobs Act.
“Colorado has consistently demonstrated a willingness to address both energy and air quality challenges in a collaborative, comprehensive manner,” wrote Joshua Epel, chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment, in an Op-Ed in Sunday’s Denver Post.
Earlier this year, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission approved landmark emissions rules for the oil and gas industry that will make the state the first to regulate emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
“Nationally, we are seeing a consensus emerge around principles that reflect the Colorado model.”
But that consensus doesn’t translate to the political landscape, especially with the midterm elections just months away.
While some Democrats and environmental groups have been pushing the president to use his executive power to impose limits on carbon pollution after climate change legislation failed in Congress, the move gives Republicans ammunition to attack Democrats and the White House for waging what they term a war on coal.”
Energy issues have moved to the fore in Colorado’s top-tier U.S. Senate battle between Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, a strong conservationist with support from environmental groups, and GOP Congressman Cory Gardner, who has received strong backing from the oil and gas industry.