Energy & Environment
6:00 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Utah Prepares for New Climate Plan

Rocky Mountain Power's Carbon Plant near Helper is scheduled to retire next year. New climate pollution regulations from the Obama administration require states to find ways to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming, and power plants are responsible for a more than one-third of that pollution nationwide.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency released an ambitious plan Monday to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming. Several Utahns are already working on next steps.

David Folland, a leader of the grass roots Citizens Climate Lobby in Utah, is pleased to see progress finally being made on the issue.

“We’ve heard from both extremes, from people who say it’s going to kill the economy, kill jobs to others who say it’s a small price to pay for all the external costs of pollution, the health costs and costs to the climate,” says Folland, one of eight Utahns headed to Washington this month to lobby for climate action.

“And so it’s kind of in the middle. My sense is that people who are really involved with this issue say it’s too little to late, but it’s way better than nothing. It’s a really important first step.”

Under the administration’s new plan, each state is charged with creating it’s own strategy for reducing greenhouse gas pollution by a certain amount. Utah’s responsible for cutting emissions by 27 percent from 2012 levels. Some reductions will come from stepping up renewables and reducing energy demand. But most will come from making fossil-fueled electric power plants more efficient.

Cutting carbon pollution also means 25 percent less air pollution.

“If we can use this process to evaluate what we’re doing now and do it better, I think it can be a win-win,” says Bryce Bird, director of Utah’s Air Quality Division.

“Perhaps we can find efficiencies that we hadn’t identified before, find ways to reduce pollutants that impact people locally, and of course if they can help with climate issues and things that we’re seeing already impacting Utah that would be another benefit. But perhaps we can find a solution that will be beneficial to everybody.”

Utah discontinued its climate change efforts when Governor Gary Herbert took office.

Before him, Governor Jon Huntsman had a three-person staff working on the Western Climate Initiative, a regional cap-and-trade organization. State regulators say they’ll need staff to manage the new regulations, and they’re looking at how to budget for that.