Connecticut officials are reviewing the sweeping Clean Power Plan announced Monday by President Barack Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but are confident the state will fare well in the process and be rewarded for steps already taken to reduce carbon emissions here.
Two years in the making, the Clean Power Plan puts in place the first-ever EPA standards on carbon emissions for existing and new power plants in the United States. It also sets goals for states to cut carbon pollution — by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, nationwide.
Obama unveiled the plan Monday at the White House and said states will be incentivized for taking action sooner than later.
The president said the plan will help alleviate climate change, which has caused rising asthma rates among Americans and a growing number of extreme weather events, from storms to droughts.
“Climate change is not a problem for another generation,” Obama said. “Not anymore.”
The plan is the “biggest, most important step ever taken to combat climate change,” he said.
The EPA was required to issue the plan’s new rule under the Clean Air Act, and also because of a 2006 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts et al v. Environmental Protection Agency. In that case, Connecticut, 11 other states, and several cities sued the EPA to force the agency to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as pollutants.
Power plants are the largest contributors of carbon emissions, a key factor in climate change, said Obama.
Obama said the EPA and White House have been working with states and power suppliers to ensure “they have the flexibility they need to cut this pollution, all while lowering energy bills, ensuring reliable service and paving the way for new job-creating innovations that will help America lead the world forward.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy praised the plan, saying in a statement: “This is about our future. The action we take now will endure for generations to come.”
Connecticut already has taken steps that have reduced carbon pollution by more than 10 percent from 1990 levels, Malloy said.
“And we’re continuing to move forward with an aggressive, ambitious goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050,” he added. “We becoming a national leader on these issues because the steps we take today will build a better Connecticut tomorrow.”
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is reviewing the plan and will develop a compliance plan, which will be required of all states, according to DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee.
“From all we know about the plan, we are confident we will receive credit for strong steps we have already taken to reduce emissions, and that we can comply with it in a manner that protects ratepayers and continues to build our economy for a sustainable and prosperous future,” Klee said in a statement.
Connecticut has made strides for several reasons, he said, including its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a mini cap and trade program for nine states. As a result of that effort carbon emissions from power plants in Connecticut dropped 34 percent between 1990 and 2012, he said.
That effort also has generated $137 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, and added jobs to the state, Klee said.
“Our state has also taken strong steps to reduce the demand from power for conventional fuels — another path the EPA rule suggests — by focusing on energy savings and deployment of renewable energy projects,” he said. “We have doubled funding for popular and cost-effective energy savings programs, and the lifetime energy savings achieved from projects funded in 2014 alone will avoid carbon emissions of more than 3.2 million tons.”
State Attorney General George Jepsen said his office also is reviewing the plan.
“The state of Connecticut has consistently demonstrated a commitment to clean air, reduced emissions, and the development of alternative energy sources, and this plan will play an essential role in continued efforts to protect our environment and public health, safety and welfare,” Jepsen said in a statement.
Jepsen said his office will assist the EPA as the plan is implemented, including in any legal challenges that may arise.
“The new rules set reasonable limits on emissions of climate change pollution from new and existing power plants, and are firmly grounded in law,” he said.
Connecticut largely supports the initiative.
A poll by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that 78 percent of Connecticut residents support regulation of carbon emissions.
More than 85,000 comments from Connecticut residents were among the 8 million submitted from across the country in favor of the plan.
“The Clean Power Plan is the single biggest action the U.S. has ever taken on climate,” Environment Connecticut State Director Chris Phelps said. “Cracking down on coal and gas while ramping up wind, solar, and other clean energy sources will protect our families’ health today and ensure a safer climate for the future.”