Carbon dioxide emissions proposal affects Arizona

Carbon dioxide emissions proposal affects Arizona

Carbon dioxide emissions proposal affects Arizona

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by The Associated Press

azfamily.com

Posted on June 3, 2014 at 9:01 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 4 at 3:24 PM

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona would be tasked with coming up with a plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about half under a proposal released Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The targets vary in other states, which will have until 2017 and 2018 to submit cleanup plans or let the federal government do it on their behalf.

Here's a look at Arizona:

- Arizona's emissions from electric power plants would be reduced by 48 percent by 2030, based on 2012 levels. The state's power plants pumped out more than 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that year.

- Arizona gets 36 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, nearly 29 percent from nuclear, 27 percent from natural gas and 6 percent from water. Solar and wind energy and power generated by petroleum represent less than 1 percent each of the state's portfolio. The national average is 26 percent from gas and 40 percent from coal.

- Much of the focus on reducing emissions nationally is centered on cleaning up or replacing coal-burning power plants. The EPA said the most cost-effective way to achieve the goals is for states to work together.

Obama makes public health pitch for carbon rules

By Josh Lederman, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- As governors, businesses and environmentalists brace for new limits on power plant pollution, President Barack Obama is casting his unprecedented effort to curb greenhouse gases as essential to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

"I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that's beyond fixing," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address released Saturday. His administration is bringing forward the first carbon pollution limits on existing U.S. power plants on Monday, the centerpiece of his campaign against climate change. Critics say the plan will drive up costs, kill jobs and damage a fragile economy.

Traditionally, the president records his weekly address at the White House. But Obama put the usual playbook aside on Friday and traveled to Children's National Medical Center, where medical equipment and white lab coats formed the backdrop for Obama to argue that by targeting carbon dioxide, his administration is shifting the U.S. away from dirty fuels that dump harmful pollutants into the air. He also met young asthma patients there, the White House said.

"In America, we don't have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children," he said.

White House officials have been fanning out across Washington and the country to build support and reassure those concerned about the coming rules. Among those worried: a number of Democrats from conservative areas who have openly criticized the rules as they prepare for difficult re-election fights this fall. Obama will echo his argument that the rules will benefit public health during a conference call Monday organized by the American Lung Association and other health groups.

The specifics of the plan have been closely guarded and environmental advocates and industry representatives alike are anxiously awaiting details such as the size of the reductions the government will mandate and what baseline those reductions will be measured against.

"We all want clean air and clean water," Republican Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming said in the weekly GOP address. "We don't want costly regulations that make little or no difference, that are making things less affordable. Republicans want electricity and gas when you need it, at a price you can afford."

But Obama accused special interests and likeminded lawmakers of repeating false claims about harmful economic effects from the new rules, which the EPA is already preparing to defend in court once the inevitable legal challenges roll in. Every time the U.S. has sought to clean up its air and water, cynics have cried wolf, only to be proved wrong, Obama said.

"These excuses for inaction somehow suggest a lack of faith in American businesses and American ingenuity," Obama said. "The truth is, when we ask our workers and businesses to innovate, they do. When we raise the bar, they meet it."

Obama asserted that in their first year in effect, the rules will prevent up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks. In fact, scientists have said there's no direct connection between greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and asthma attacks or other respiratory illnesses. But coal-fired power plants that emit high levels of greenhouse gases also pump other pollutants into the air that do affect health.

By drawing a link between the carbon rules and asthma, the White House is offering a nuanced argument: Over time, these rules will shift the U.S. away from coal and toward cleaner energy, indirectly reducing levels of other harmful pollutants.

Deploying that argument could embolden Republicans in their assertions that Democrats are waging a "war on coal" - a claim that Obama and his allies deny.

Power plants form the largest single source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Administration officials say the rules will give states mandatory standards, then allow flexibility on how they are achieved.

 

How Obama's power plant emission rules will work

By Josh Lederman, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration on Monday plans to make public the first rules limiting carbon emissions from the thousands of power plants.

The pollution controls form the cornerstone of President Barack Obama's campaign to combat climate change and a key element of his legacy.

Obama says the rules are essential to curb the heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Critics contend the rules will kill jobs, drive up electricity prices and shutter plants across the country.

Environmentalists and industry advocates alike are eagerly awaiting the specifics, which the Environmental Protection Agency will make public for the first time on Monday and Obama will champion from the White House.

While the details remain murky, the administration says the rules will play a major role in achieving the pledge Obama made in Copenhagen during his first year in office to cut America's carbon emissions by about 17 percent by 2020.

Some questions and answers about the proposal:

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Q: How does the government plan to limit emissions?

A: Unable to persuade Congress to act on climate change, Obama is turning to the Clean Air Act. The 1970s-era law has long been used to regulate pollutants like soot, mercury and lead but has only recently been applied to greenhouse gases.

Unlike with new power plants, the government can't regulate existing plant emissions directly. Instead, the government will issue guidelines for cutting emissions, then each state will develop its own plan to meet those guidelines. If a state refuses, the EPA can create its own plan.

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Q: Why are these rules necessary?

A: Power plants are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Environmentalists and the White House say without bold action, climate change will intensify and endanger the public's well-being around the world. In its National Climate Assessment this year, the administration said warming and erratic weather will become increasingly disruptive unless curtailed.

"This is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now," Obama said in May.

The United States is only one player in the global climate game. These rules won't touch carbon emissions in other nations whose coal plants are even dirtier. But the White House believes that leading by example gives the U.S. more leverage to pressure other countries to reduce their own emissions.

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Q: How steep will the reductions be?

A: We don't know.

The administration hasn't said whether it will set one universal standard or apply different standards in each state. But Obama's senior counselor, John Podesta, said the reductions will be made "in the most cost-effective and most efficient way possible," by giving flexibility to the states.

That could include offsetting emissions by increasing the use of solar and nuclear power, switching to cleaner-burning fuels like natural gas or creating efficiency programs that reduce energy demand. States might also pursue an emissions-trading plan - also known as cap-and-trade - as several northeast states have already done.

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Q: How will they affect my power bill? What about the economy?

A: It depends where you live. Different states have a different mixes of coal versus gas and other fuels, so the rules will affect some states more than others. Dozens of coal-burning plants have already announced they plan to close.

Still, it's a good bet the rules will drive up electricity prices. The U.S. relies on coal for 40 percent of its electricity, and the Energy Department predicts retail power prices will rise this year because of environmental regulations, economic forces and other factors.

Environmentalists argue that some of those costs are offset by decreased health care costs and other indirect benefits. They also say the transition toward greener fuels could create jobs.

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Q: Doesn't Obama need approval from Congress?

A: Not for this. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling gave the EPA the green light to regulate carbon-dioxide under the Clean Air Act. But that doesn't mean there won't be fierce opposition and drawn-out litigation. The government is expecting legal challenges and is preparing to defend the rules in court if necessary.

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Q: Is this the final step?

A: Not even close. After the draft rule is proposed, there's a full year for public comment and revisions. Then states have another year to submit their implementation plans to the EPA.

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Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Dina Cappiello contributed to this report.

 

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