Wyoming faces lower CO2 cuts than nearby states

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CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Proposed new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations would require Wyoming to cut carbon dioxide emissions less than neighboring states in part because coal generates a large share of the state's electricity.

The EPA last week announced the rules and a goal of cutting emissions of the greenhouse gas by 30 percent nationwide, compared with 2005 levels, by 2030.

Wyoming would need to cut its CO2 emissions by 19 percent under the proposed rules — quite a bit less than most neighboring states, the Casper Star-Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1n2swL1 ).

Colorado and South Dakota each face 35 percent reductions. In Idaho, it would be 33 percent; Utah, 27 percent; Montana, 21 percent; and Nebraska, 26 percent.

Wyoming's target reduction is lower in part because coal-fired power plants supply a large portion of the state's electricity, almost 90 percent. Two-thirds of that electricity goes to other states and isn't consumed in Wyoming.

Wyoming, meanwhile, doesn't have a state renewable energy portfolio standard and incentives for the development of renewable electricity, said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Under the proposed rules, states with renewable energy incentives would be expected to use more wind, solar and other renewable technologies. States without renewable energy standards would not be expected to make the same investment.

"Wyoming is going to have to do relatively little cleanup," Weiss said.

The EPA would give each state a target emission reduction. Options for each state to achieve its goals could include upgrading coal-fired power plants, running cleaner-burning gas-fired power plants more often, and building renewable power facilities.

States also could employ energy efficiency programs to encourage homeowners and businesses to save electricity.

In Wyoming, it's not yet clear what some of those options mean or whether they can be easily put in place, said Alan Minier, chairman of the Wyoming Public Service Commission, which is tasked with regulating electricity rates.

"I don't know how to count things up to know whether I'm winning or losing at this point," Minier said of the rules.

He expressed doubt about some Wyoming plants' ability to meet the standard, suggesting those facilities would be forced to close before the end of their useful lives.

Some of Wyoming's coal plants are new and more efficient than older coal-fired plants. He pointed to the WyGen 3 unit outside Gillette as an example.

Wyoming currently has very little natural gas generation it can deploy to meet the standard, although a 132-megawatt, gas-fired power plant is scheduled to go online this year.

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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