Editor's note: The following summary represents state and utility stances after the Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan in February 2016.
U.S. EPA's plan to cut Colorado's power-sector emissions rate 38 percent from 2012 to 2030 enjoys support from Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), but the state's Republican attorney general is challenging it in court.
Colorado was among 27 states that filed lawsuits challenging the rule.
State officials said in February that they believe it is "prudent" for the state to keep working toward power plant carbon emissions reductions despite a Supreme Court ruling to freeze the regulation.
But the state's original path toward meeting the Clean Power Plan goals will be recharted, officials declared at Colorado's first public meeting about the regulation since the court stay.
"We don't think it is appropriate at this point to continue drafting a full state plan," said Chris Colclasure of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Air Pollution Control Division. "There's just too much uncertainty for that."
The state General Assembly in April cut $112,000 from CDPHE's budget, in an attempt to thwart Clean Power Plan preparations (ClimateWire, April 15). The Republican-controlled Senate also advanced a bill to prohibit planning, but Democrats on a House Committee rejected it in late April (ClimateWire, April 28).
Colorado's 2030 goal of emitting 1,174 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour is "moderate" compared to other states', EPA said. The state's interim goal of 1,362 pounds per MWh reflects changes EPA made to provide a "smoother glide path" into the program, the agency said.
Hickenlooper, who initially described EPA's final plan as "ambitious" but achievable, has reiterated his support.
"I don't think we're going to have a heavy lift to meet those rules," Hickenlooper said in an Aug. 27, 2015, speech to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association's annual Rocky Mountain Energy Summit. In a follow-up interview, Hickenlooper said Colorado's high elevation underscores the need for tough standards for air pollution.
Colorado is in a relatively good position to implement the EPA plan thanks to its renewable energy standard (30 percent by 2020) and a 2010 state law to convert coal-fired power plants to natural gas, the governor's team said. Still, state officials say EPA's plan doesn't give Colorado as much credit as it deserves for clean energy efforts before 2012.
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) announced Aug. 29 that she would join the multistate lawsuit in a Washington, D.C., federal court to challenge the Clean Power Plan, which she described as "an unprecedented attempt to expand the federal government's regulatory control over the states' energy economy."
"The face of Colorado's economy could be forever changed, and that will be reflected in lost jobs, higher utility rates and an altered energy industry," Coffman said. "Before untold sums of public and private monies are spent on compliance with the Clean Power Plan, we need to settle the matter of whether it is even legal."
Coffman earlier said the EPA plan puts Colorado's $9 billion mining industry at risk and threatens tens of thousands of jobs.
Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said the final plan will result in "double-digit" electricity rate increases, hurting lower-income families, and will result in hundreds of lost jobs in Colorado's coal mining, transportation and power plant sectors.
Power companies that serve Colorado appear split.
Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy Inc., Colorado's largest electricity provider, attended the plan's unveiling ceremony at the White House in a sign of support. "While we expect the Clean Power Plan does not provide everything we hoped for in terms of fully recognizing the early actions of proactive states and utilities, Xcel Energy is ready to move ahead," he said in a statement.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., which provides electricity to 18 cooperatives in Colorado serving rural residences, farms and ranches, continues to have "great concerns" about the rule, said spokesman Lee Boughey.
An analysis by Western Resource Advocates, a Boulder-based environmental group, found that current plans by Colorado utilities to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency and the retirement of coal plants will achieve 85 percent of the emissions reductions required to meet EPA's interim goal, and 75 percent of what's required in the agency's 2030 goal.
Coal, which supplies 60 percent of Colorado's electricity, will still represent about 40 percent of the state's energy portfolio even after EPA's 2030 target is met, WRA estimates.
Last updated on September 26, 2016 at 12:04 PM