Editor's note: The following summary represents state and utility stances after the Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan in February 2016.
Utah joined the cohort of states that stopped working on potential ways to comply with the Clean Power Plan after the Supreme Court issued its stay on Feb. 9.
"We have suspended our formal stakeholder process pending review of the [Clean Power Plan] rule," said Glade Sowards, Utah's Clean Power Plan coordinator in the state's Division of Air Quality.
Sowards said Utah remains open to hearing from stakeholders about the EPA rule to curb carbon emissions from power plants and may continue some informal discussions about the rule.
When the rule was issued, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (R) blasted EPA for "bypassing Congress, violating the Clean Air Act [and] ignoring meaningful input by the states" when the final Clean Power Plan was released. The state's largest power company took a softer line. "We truly do think if states [are] allowed to develop their own plans and EPA allows some flexibility, we will meet the goals by 2030," Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Paul Murphy said.
Under the Clean Power Plan, Utah must reduce its carbon emissions rate 34 percent from 2012 levels by 2030. The draft rule had proposed a less stringent 27 percent change. Six coal plants and five natural gas plants in Utah will have to comply with the regulation, according to the state Division of Air Quality.
Sowards said that because the state's electricity generation relies heavily on coal, the final rule "poses certain challenges for us."
Before the stay, Sowards said it is important that the state develop an emissions-reduction strategy to submit to EPA.
"The idea is that we want to have a plan prepared in the event that the legal challenges are unsuccessful," Sowards said. "We want to develop a plan that works best for Utah, should we need it."
The state had aimed to make an initial submittal to EPA of its compliance plan in September and then craft a full compliance plan by the 2018 deadline.
Sowards said EPA's proposed federal plan, which would be implemented in Utah if the state did not turn in its own plan, does not offer enough flexibility.
Before the stay, Utah was in talks with other Western states about working together to meet EPA's emission-reduction targets through a Colorado-based group called the Center for the New Energy Economy.
Asked whether the state might adopt a "trading-ready" strategy or formally collaborate with other states, Sowards said all options are on the table. "There are potential benefits from trading," he said.
Utah early on joined lawsuits to challenge the regulation, but it also was one of four states that applied for assistance from the National Governors Association to explore carbon-cutting options.
"Being proactive and strategically positioned to comply with impending federal regulations is preferred to being reactive," Utah explained in its application for NGA's Policy Academy before the rule was finalized.
"Knowing that we will likely find ourselves having to comply with some form of carbon regulation in the near term, we are determined not to be caught flat-footed," said Jeffrey Barrett, deputy director for the governor's Office of Energy Development.
Gov. Gary Herbert (R) said in an interview with E&E in September that it shouldn't be up to the federal government to "tilt the playing field" to discourage coal power and encourage renewable energy.
Last updated on February 23, 2016 at 2:29 PM