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Local officials react to Pres. Obama’s climate change policy

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Posted at 10:06 PM, Aug 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-04 00:06:48-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- President Obama unveiled his major climate change policy on Monday, sparking new debate over the controversial Clean Power Plan.

According to the Environment Protection Agency, the plan creates the “first-ever national standards that address carbon pollution from power plants.”

For several months, the EPA has been taking public comments on a draft proposal, which mandates a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

“It has to be evaluated and looked at,” said Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton.

During the legislative session, Handy sponsored a resolution to underscore Utah’s opposition to the plan.

“Someone ends up paying this. It’s the end user. It’s the customer,” Handy said. “We need to pay our fair share for clean air, but let’s go at it in a methodical, thoughtful way.”

Gov. Gary Herbert sent a letter to the EPA in December 2014, arguing that such a “dramatic expansion” of the Clean Air Act required authorization from Congress. However, Monday, the Governor’s office shied away from lodging any new criticism and instead stated they were awaiting direction from local EPA officials.

Under the final draft of the plan, nine Utah power plants would face new regulations, which are slightly more stringent than the initial draft had recommended.

The EPA offers two ways to measure emissions reductions.

One, a rate-based system, measures the pounds of carbon emissions per megawatt hour.  EPA used Utah’s 2012 rate of 1,874 lbs/MWh to reach a reduction of 37 percent by 2030, taking the rate to 1,179 lbs/MWh.

The other, which measures the mass or volume of emissions, calls for a 23 percent reduction by 2030.

“It’s not unreasonable at all. We’re talking about a period of 15 years to make approximately a 30 percent change,” said Mark Clemens, manager of the Utah Sierra Club, which has advocated for the proposal in the past.

According to the White House, Utah's plants emitted 36 million metric tons of carbon pollution in 2013, equivalent to the pollution from more than 7.5 million cars.

The plan outlines three interim steps, explaining reduction goals for each state to meet along the way to the 2030 deadline.  States are required to either submit a plan for implementation or request for a delay by the fall of 2016.  By 2022, they are all required to begin demonstrating emission reductions.  However, President Obama said states that make changes sooner will be rewarded.