Editor's note: The following summary represents state and utility stances after the Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan in February 2016.
Alaska officials won a reprieve from U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan as the Obama administration exempted the Last Frontier State, as well as Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico, from the final rule. Regulators concluded that they didn't have enough information about the noncontiguous states to set new carbon dioxide reduction mandates.
Alaska has a limited transmission grid that's concentrated around the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas and isn't connected to renewable energy projects in the Lower 48 or in other parts of the state.
State leaders praised the White House decision to exclude Alaska from the carbon mandates. Gov. Bill Walker (I) said the rule would have hiked the state's already-high electricity prices. "Alaska can and should be a leader in affordable, clean energy development," he said. "However, this has to be on Alaska's terms given how unique our state is."
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who lobbied for the exemption, described EPA's decision as "by far the best possible outcome for our state and therefore a significant victory."
Despite the exemption, federal regulators said they plan to establish future greenhouse gas emission reductions for Alaska, though no timetable was set for that effort.
The chance of another set of greenhouse gas rules does worry the Alaska utility industry. "These things can be complex and have a lot of moving parts," noted Michael Rovito, director of member and public relations at the Alaska Power Association. "So we're looking at what comes next."
Alaska Senate Majority Leader John Coghill (R) criticized EPA for "reserv[ing] the right to regulate CO2 in Alaska based on uncertain science, which could have huge negative impacts on Alaska in the future."
But Murkowski said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy assured her that new carbon dioxide emission standards aren't likely to be developed for Alaska for the distant future.
Until then, Alaska's clean energy advocates will work with state leaders "to align and integrate the state's energy programs and infrastructure to enable Alaska to comply with the emissions rule when the EPA does set a schedule for the state," according to Chris Rose, executive director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project.
Last updated on February 6, 2016 at 6:19 PM