Thursday October 1, 2015 0 comments
FORT COLLINS -- The Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) in Fort Collins is taking on the challenge of serving as the convener of 13 Western states and their local utilities as they begin to respond to a new rule under the federal Clean Air Act of 1970 known as the Clean Power Plan.
Officially known as Rule 111 (d) of the Act, the Clean Power Plan aims to reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.
Energy experts on Wednesday gave an informational overview of the new rule on the CSU campus, including former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, now serving as CNEE’s director.
Others taking part in the event included Diana Wall, director of CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability; Bryan Willson, director of CSU’s Energy Institute; and Patrick Cummins, CNEE’s lead on the project.
Ritter said the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had the authority to address the nation’s ongoing greenhouse gas emissions challenge -- due in part to the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil -- by utility companies to produce electricity.
The plan does not address the other big contributor to greenhouse gases -- vehicle emissions.
Ritter said the 13 Western states include North and South Dakota and all states west of them, including Colorado.
“We’re tackling this on a state-by-state basis,” Ritter said. “We’re really not an advocate for the EPA. We’re an advocate for the West.”
Under the new rule, all states must come up with their own individual strategies for meeting the 32 percent emissions reduction goal. Colorado, under Gov. John Hickenlooper, supports the Clean Power Plan, Ritter said, but it remains controversial in some states that have farther to go to reach their goals.
Ritter said states that don’t submit a plan within the next three years will have the EPA file a plan for them, giving them an incentive to get on board.
Cummins said he expects even currently reluctant states to eventually come around.
“It’s up to the states to implement these Clean Air Act programs,” he said. “Nobody thinks that just saying no and turning it back to the EPA is a good idea.”
The new rule basically calls for states and their utilities to do three things:
- Improve the operational efficiencies of existing steam (fossil fuel-powered) plants
- Shift their operations from steam plants to natural gas
- Shift to renewable power sources such as wind and solar
Cummins noted that coal-fired plants are already on their way out. Many of the existing plants were built prior to 1990 and most are at least 30 years old, he said.
And permitting a new coal-fired plant is not likely in 2015.
“It’s difficult if not impossible to build any new coal plants,” he said.
That’s because it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve the pollution controls now required for a coal-fired plant, Cummins said.
On the other hand, the acceptance of wind and solar power into the power grid has been steadily increasing since 2000.
“The Clean Power Plan is enhancing trends that are already under way,” he said.
Ritter said although there is currently some strong political opposition to the Clean Power Plan and the national Climate Action Plan as proposed by President Obama, he said he’s confident the program will be adopted on schedule.
“When it comes to implementing this, we think there’s a real path forward,” he said.
Ritter said the effort to implement the Clean Power Plan will mean “the states are going to have to find a level of cooperation that maybe they haven’t seen before.
“But they know the world is changing under their feet, and they know they have to do that,” he said.