SEATTLE – Washington state would be expected to cut carbon emissions from its existing power plants by 72 percent under the Obama Administration’s proposal to tackle global warming.
The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a plan Monday that sets customized targets for states to cut emissions by 2030. Some states will be allowed to emit more pollutants and others less, with an overall nationwide reduction of 30 percent below 2005 levels.
Washington’s emissions rate cut of 72 percent is the largest proposed among states. An EPA spokeswoman says that’s because the state is already scheduled to shut down its coal-fired power plant.
TransAlta’s power plant in Centralia, the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, is scheduled to completely shut down by 2025 under a state law passed in 2011.
Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, said the EPA’s proposed changes would devastate the state’s manufacturing industry and put jobs at risk. He says the EPA proposal would eliminate the state’s competitive advantage in its availability of affordable, reliable energy.
But Gov. Jay Inslee and environmental groups applauded the president for his leadership in limiting carbon pollution they said poses serious risks to people and the environment.
Inslee said the state is moving forward on climate action, and its work will be more effective with committed federal allies.
“The approach announced by the President and EPA provides flexibility to states to create solutions that best fit their needs and spur innovation,” Inslee said.
In 2012, fourteen power plants in the state released about 6.1 million metric tons of carbon emissions. The EPA proposed that the state reduce the pollution it puts out per amount of power by 72 percent from its rate in 2012.
States will decide how to cut carbon pollution, and will have two or three years to submit final plans depending on whether or not they partner with other states.
It’s still too early to know what the proposal will really mean for Washington state, said Stu Clark, air quality program manager for the Department of Ecology. “We’ll have to make some choices. We have to be cleaner than we are today, but I can’t tell you how big or small that will be from our electricity sector.”
He said staff will work to validate numbers used to set the state’s target, as well whether the state was treated fairly.
Clark noted that the state has programs in place that could help it reduce carbon pollution, including a voter-approved law that requires the state’s largest utilities to get more electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources.