Colo. steps back from crafting formal plan for EPA rule

Source: Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Colorado officials said yesterday they believe it is “prudent” for the state to keep working toward power plant carbon emissions reductions despite a recent Supreme Court ruling to freeze a key federal climate change regulation.

But the state’s original path toward meeting U.S. EPA’s 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.”

Under the Clean Plan, EPA had asked Colorado to cut its rate of emissions 38 percent from 2012 levels by 2030. The rule required states to develop detailed strategies by September 2018 demonstrating how they would meet the required power sector carbon reductions.

Colclasure said the decision to stop work on developing a full compliance plan is part of an effort in smart time management.

“We want to take any steps that we can to put Colorado in the best position given the uncertainty so that when the Supreme Court gives us a ruling, we have used that time effectively,” he said.

The state is “trying to identify actions that we can take that will have benefits regardless of the outcome of the litigation,” Colclasure said, adding that “we don’t want to waste time, either, by having people work on activities that wind up being irrelevant.”

Colorado will continue modeling potential carbon emissions-reduction scenarios and looking at the role of energy efficiency in the state, according to Will Allison, director of the Air Pollution Control Division at CDPHE.

Public meetings in limbo

The agency will also continue meeting with power companies, environmental groups and communities about the rule and its implications, including discussions on how allowances might be allocated under a potential carbon trading system.

“We want to continue the dialogue that we’ve got going,” said Colclasure.

However, the state is considering cancelling a public meeting on the rule scheduled for March in Pueblo, Colo. According to the CDPHE¬†website, the meeting was to focus on “trading, allowances, set asides, emission reduction credits, and other mechanisms needed to comply.”

A meeting scheduled for April in Craig, Colo., is likely to remain on schedule, Colclasure said.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) is part of the multi-state legal challenge of the Clean Power Plan, while Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) supports EPA’s rule. Shortly after the Supreme Court stay was announced, the CDPHE announced it will keep planning for EPA’s rule “to ensure that the state is not left at a disadvantage if the courts uphold all or part of the Clean Power Plan.”

Representatives for a number of clean energy, environmental and public health groups spoke in support of the Hickenlooper administration’s stance on the Clean Power Plan at yesterday’s meeting, including the American Lung Association, Conservation Colorado and the Western Clean Energy Campaign.

But others protested the agency’s intention to continue discussions about the Clean Power Plan.

“This is a waste of the department’s time and taxpayer’s money,” said Richard Orf, a government relations representative for the Colorado Mining Association.

Orf noted that nearby states like Montana, Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota are halting planning under the rule. So far, 20 states have announced they will continue planning for the rule, 18 states are suspending planning for the rule and nine states are still assessing what to do following the Supreme Court stay of the Clean Power Plan (ClimateWire, Feb. 22).

“If Colorado chooses to move ahead on its own, there is no assurance that the state’s plan will ultimately mesh with whatever course EPA may choose,” Orf said.