15 US states urge Obama to recognize their successful carbon reduction efforts

17 December 2013

NEW YORK: Today 15 US states sent a letter to the country's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging it to recognize their already successful clean energy and climate programs, in light of new pollution standards for power plants that are set to be issued next year.

In June, President Barack Obama commited to federal carbon emission standards for power plants that states must meet using their own climate plans, under the EPA's Clean Air Act

The 15 states have come together to ensure the EPA takes into account their early climate action as part of the new rules, a draft of which the EPA is planning to release in June 2014.

Power plants currently account for 40% of US emissions, so this pollution reduction commitment is the centerpiece of Obama's Climate Action Plan.

In a letter to the EPA's Gina McCarthy, environment and energy officials from the 15 states--California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington--say that their actions to cut greenhouse gases have already reduced carbon pollution from the energy sector by at least 20% in the last seven years alone, demonstrating how effective their exisiting programs are in cutting carbon. 

In their letter, the states call for tougher standards that will hold them accountable for their progress, in a bid to improve the energy system as a whole rather than just via limits on individual power plants.

The letter also includes a survey that spotlights which of the states' programs and policies are best reducing greenhouse gases at the same time as boosting their economies.

Ken Kimmell, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, explained: "Our states have not only dramatically reduced carbon emissions, they have grown their economies at the same time. For example, Massachusetts has seen over 11% annual growth in the clean energy sector as it has invested almost 90% of the proceeds from RGGI auctions into energy efficiency, helping to make our state among the most energy efficient in the nation."

Mary D Nichols, Chair, California Air Resources Board, said: "California is a leader in energy efficiency and clean energy, has low per capita greenhouse gas emissions, and low electricity bills. The states have always been the laboratories of innovation, and we fully support an approach that allows states to develop their own programs and use comprehensive policy tools that improve the power sector as a whole."

In the letter, state officials urge the EPA to:

  • Develop the standards' performance level based on a “best system of emission reduction” that uses the states' experiences in cost-effectively reducing carbon pollution from the whole energy system.
  • Establish emission reduction guidelines that include different states' circumstances.
  • Allow for compliance including options for participation in regional emission trading programs.

Libby Ferguson, States and Regions Director, The Climate Group, said: “Globally, sub-national governments are already achieving significant emissions reductions and inspiring confidence that through working collaboratively with all levels of government, more ambitious national commitments to emissions reductions can be achieved. These 15 US states are driving a collaborative national approach focused on standards that recognize and support existing state government action and facilitate more ambitious emissions reductions based on the innovative solutions developed in their respective regions.”

Read the letter

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