News: U.S. EPA finalizes Clean Power Plan; Colorado committed to meeting goals

Mark Salley, Communications Director | 303-692-2013 | 

DENVER — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today finalized new rules designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants across the country. Known as the Clean Power Plan, the rules are designed to maintain an affordable, reliable energy system while cutting pollution and protecting public health and the environment.
"We realize these are ambitious goals and may be challenging for Colorado, but we have risen to these challenges before by developing a mix of cost-effective strategies across the energy spectrum,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “We will continue our work with utilities and communities to meet these new federal requirements while preserving affordable energy rates. Clean air is important to all of Colorado and building on the work that’s already done, we will continue on the path of improving our local air quality." 
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Emissions from power plants are estimated to account for as much as 40 percent of CO2 emissions nationwide.
Colorado previously submitted comments to the EPA regarding its proposed rules, signed by the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the chair of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and the executive director of the Colorado Energy Office. The comments discussed the significant work Colorado already has done to reduce CO2 emissions, including retiring or repowering coal-fired units, increasing renewable energy use and energy efficiency, and reducing energy demand.  
"Colorado will be working to finalize a plan to meet the goals stated in these rules,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “The EPA listened to Colorado and other states and stakeholders in making needed revisions, providing important flexibility to the states to craft specific strategies to reduce CO2 emissions and the time needed to accomplish the goals."
Wolk noted that the plan’s incentives for economically disadvantaged communities, including the establishment of a Clean Energy Incentive Program that will encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts benefitting those communities, are of particular interest to his department.
Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) and the 2010 Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act put the state in a leading position to address the regulation of CO2 emissions. Wolk said the plan is consistent with those efforts to lower emissions and improve public health. 
The final rule requires power plants to reduce CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, with an interim goal by 2022. The final rule pushes the interim goal back two years, providing additional flexibility to the states.  
By 2018, the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act will have reduced CO2 emissions by 3.6 million metric tons annually. By last year, Xcel Energy alone already had reduced CO2 emissions by 2.1 million tons annually.
Colorado currently gets about 2,500 megawatts from renewable sources, ranking 10th in the nation. Colorado utilities also have demand-side management programs in place, which reduce electricity usage and carbon emissions.
"Colorado has adopted and implemented forward-thinking policies that have reduced CO2 emissions while ensuring a diverse, dependable and affordable energy mix,” said Joshua Epel, chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. “It is important for Colorado to continue to implement thoughtful energy strategies that ensure reasonable rates and maintain reliability while addressing environmental issues.” 
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been delegated primary responsibility by the EPA to facilitate development of the state plan. The department will commence a stakeholder process to receive input as it develops a state plan to respond to the federal requirements.
The final state plan will go to the legislature for approval before submission to the EPA. An initial state plan will be due September 2016 with an option for states to request a two-year extension to September 2018 for submission of the final plan.
Information on the stakeholder process will be available at