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Idaho officials protest carbon reduction plan

State officials are opposing an effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Idaho’s energy regulator said this week that it’s unfair to include the state in the EPA’s proposal to have states develop rules to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

John Chatburn, administrator of the Office of Energy Resources, told the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee that the state has submitted comments protesting EPA’s decision.

There are no coal-burning facilities in the state that could be subject to the carbon reduction rules, Chatburn said, and the two natural gas power plants that would fall under the rule already emit less CO2 than regulations require.

Chatburn said there are “fairness issues” with requiring Idaho to develop a plan at all.

Vermont and the District of Columbia both have been exempted from writing such rules because of their low carbon footprints. Chatburn said Idaho has the second-lowest carbon footprint in the nation, after Vermont. The U.S. Energy Administration puts Idaho fifth-lowest.

Idaho’s large hydroelectric generating capacity isn’t being treated as renewable energy, and the state is getting little credit for its large wind turbine capacity, since most of that electricity is shipped out of state, he said.

And Chatburn said the rule requiring reductions also would “severely hamper” the natural gas facilities in the state.

Setting up a monitoring and enforcement regime, he said, would impose significant costs on the state.


In November, Gov. Butch Otter sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy protesting the regulation along similar lines.

The rule in question is referred to as the Clean Power Plan, and it relies on a seldom-used section of the Clean Air Act, Section 111(d).

In 2009, the EPA released an “endangerment finding,” warning greenhouse gasses were a threat to the health and welfare of future generations. That meant releases of carbon dioxide and other gasses that tend to raise global temperatures could be regulated under the Clean Air Act because of a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The EPA took its first action in 2013, announcing that all newly constructed or rebuilt energy generation plants would be subject to stricter federal carbon emission standards.

Last year, the Obama administration added a second regulation, aimed at states. Those guidelines require state governments to produce regulatory processes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

The regulations leave it to states to determine how they can achieve those reductions. Possibilities include capping emissions from power plants, building more renewable energy capacity and promoting more efficient use of energy.

The EPA originally was set to release a final version of those guidelines June 1, but Chatburn said the release could be delayed until August. After that the state will have a year to write its rules.

Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, objected to the idea of emission reductions in general.

“I’m not a carbon-type guy in the first place,” Nielsen said. “This green stuff is driving me nuts.”

Nielsen said there’s widespread disagreement about whether human-caused climate change is real. But among climate scientists, there is not.

The EPA has found that increasing global temperatures will harm the country’s health and welfare in several ways.

Committee member Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, asked what would happen if the state chose to ignore the EPA.

Chatburn said the EPA would write regulations for the state that would be enforced at the federal level, rather than through state regulators.