EPA asks Alaska to cut carbon emissions 26 percent

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska state officials will study a federal plan to lower carbon pollutant emissions before weighing in on its effects, according to a Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner spokesman.

The Obama administration on Monday unveiled an initiative aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels.

Emissions cuts vary by state. In Alaska, the plan calls for a cut of carbon pollutants by nearly 26 percent over the next 15 years.

The draft rule is more than 600 pages long, and it's accompanied by nearly 400 pages of regulatory analysis, according to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Spokesman Ty Keltner said Department of Environmental Conservation Larry Hartig would take a few days to review the plan.

"It's really too soon to make any comments on this," Keltner said. "The department and the state just got this plan like everybody else did and the commissioner and the Division of Air Quality is going to need some time to look at it to figure out what this means for Alaska."

Alaska generates 10 percent of its electricity from coal plants. The largest source of power, natural gas, accounts for 52 percent of Alaska's electricity and could generate more if a gas pipeline is built to Fairbanks and southcentral Alaska communities. Hydropower generates 23 percent of Alaska's electricity and diesel fuel generates 15 percent.

Across the nation, coal represents 40 percent of electricity generation. Natural gas makes up 26 percent. Renewables, not counting hydropower, make up about 5.7 percent.

According to the Energy Information Administration, Alaska in 2012 emitted 1.96 million metric tons in 2012 at a rate of 1,351 pounds per megawatt hour. The 2030 goal is to cut that to 1,003 pounds per megawatt hour.

Cutting emissions will fight climate change and protect the public health, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Murkowski in a statement criticized the proposal.

"Despite negative economic growth last quarter, and despite far better approaches pending in Congress to promote energy efficiency and energy innovation, the president has decided to push ahead and propose a sweeping new regulation on our still-weak economy," she said.

EPA regulations will come at a high cost and harm the affordability and reliability of energy, she said.

President Barack Obama, however, says the plan will not harm the economy.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said the plan will affect the handful of coal plants in Alaska's Railbelt, the region from Seward to Fairbanks along Alaska Railroad lines. He will closely monitor the measure, he said.

"We must protect consumers along the way," he said.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, called the plan an "economy killer."

"These policies, which specifically target fossil fuel-based electricity generation, will seriously jeopardize the stability of a critical power source in the United States," he said in a statement.

In a conference call with public health leaders, Obama disputed that the plan will kill jobs, drive up power bills and crush regional economies.

"What we've seen every time is that these claims are debunked when you actually give workers and businesses the tools and the incentives they need to innovate," Obama said.

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