Utah power companies were already starting to lower greenhouse gas emissions when President Donald Trump signed an executive order this week to roll back the Clean Power Plan.
The regulation was never implemented, but it would have required Utah’s coal- and gas-fired power plants to cut about one third of their emissions by the year 2030.
The president’s executive order Tuesday ultimately scraps the regulation. Yet it’s not expected to change much in Utah, since the state’s 11 affected power plants are on track to reduce their emissions.
“The Clean Power Plan was already a reflection of what we were doing,” says Paul Murphy, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power in Utah.
Its parent company is Berkshire Hathaway Energy, the first utility company to back the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce global climate pollution. Murphy says the company has been working hard on offering affordable clean energy because customers are demanding it.
“That transition already began before the Clean Power Plan and will continue with or without it,” he says.
Republican Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes have fought the climate regulation. And Utah Republicans in Congress have praised the Trump administration for backing the fossil fuel industry.
But environmentalists say moves like reversing the Clean Power Plan and ending the coal-leasing moratorium, which was also announced this week, will actually harm people and the economy.
“Utah Republicans and the administration aren’t protecting jobs,” says Lindsay Beebe of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Utah. “They’re picking and choosing which industries to support and which to drive out of the state.”
Beebe says the greenhouse gas rules adopted last summer would have prevented 3,600 premature deaths nationally each year. Meanwhile, she doubts this week’s energy-regulation rollbacks will do little to bring back coal jobs. That’s because of low world prices and already big stockpiles.
A 2015 tally from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put greenhouse gas emissions in Utah at around 42 million metric tons a year, based on reports from 78 companies.