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For Idaho, the Real Opportunities Begin With Our New Clean Power Plan

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The long-awaited national Clean Power Plan has been released and is still being sliced and diced every which-way to see how Idaho and other states will be affected. Now that the plan is out, attention shifts to Idaho and all states as we sit down to craft the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our coal plants as the nation strives to reduce those emissions by more than 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Idaho wisely declined to join those states that either threatened to sue the federal government over the Clean Power Plan, or that are boycotting the plan by refusing to submit their own state implementation plan. By moving forward, Idaho retains authority over how its plan will be created, but we also need to make sure we get it right because the stakes are enormous if we don’t.Many Idahoans are already seeking opportunities to engage with our state agencies that will develop and submit Idaho’s implementation plan to the Environmental Protection Agency, and for good reason. How Idaho decides to meet its greenhouse gas reduction obligations will impact every Idahoan because it will determine where our electricity comes from, how it’s produced, and how much we pay for it.

Many now know that while Idaho has no coal-fired electricity generation plants within the state, it nonetheless relies on out-of-state coal plants owned or co-owned by its three major electric utilities for more than 40 percent of our electricity. So while we don’t generate significant amounts of greenhouse gases from in-state power production, we are nonetheless responsible for our share of those emissions created elsewhere.

Rather than imposing painful restrictions on Idaho’s electricity sector, the truth is the Clean Power Plan presents Idaho with an opportunity not just to adopt cleaner and more responsible energy, but also to bring home the hundreds of millions of dollars Idahoans spend each year to import dirty coal-fired electricity from neighboring states. States that are already replacing coal with cleaner energy efficiency and renewable energy are seeing direct impacts from new clean energy jobs and investments. The Clean Power Plan gives Idaho a path forward to do the same.

To recap: Complying with the federal 1970 Clean Air Act, EPA has determined how each state can meet its specific target as the nation strives to meet its ambitious carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction goals and reduce the impacts of climate change resulting from those emissions. EPA issued its final rule Aug. 3, giving states a year to tell EPA how they plan to meet those goals through an implementation plan. EPA has given states additional time to submit their final plans, but those that refuse to comply (again, so far Idaho is not among them) will have the federal government write a plan for them.

Now that the state reduction targets are known, some states are well into forming their compliance path. Some began that process even before EPA finalized the coal plant emissions targets.

The Snake River Alliance and our clean energy partners Idaho Conservation League and Sierra Club are in close contact with the state Office of Energy Resources, which is taking the lead in developing Idaho’s implementation plan, to ensure transparency as the plan is prepared and just as important broad public participation in that process.

As the state moves forward, we’ll keep you informed on how Idaho is handling its obligations to do its share to reduce climate-changing greenhouse emissions from its coal plants.

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