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America's Dirtiest Power Plants Could Be Exempted from the Clean Power Plan
President Obama’s Clean Power Plan could be all smoke and mirrors, as some of the country’s dirtiest power plants might end up exempted from it. The Huffington Post reports that some of the most polluting fossil-fueled power plants in the United States (located on Indian reservations in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah) are excluded from the Environmental Protection Agency’s calculations used to set the the carbon emissions rate cut goals for their respective states – because rules in each state don’t apply to Indian reservations.
Under the recently announced Clean Power Plan, carbon emissions from existing power plants would be cut to 30 per cent below 2005 levels. The plan sets out different goals for each state depending on how much energy is produced there, and the currently existing programs the state has in place. But in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, emissions rules don’t apply to Indian reservations – and they also don’t apply to Vermont or the District of Columbia because neither currently has a power plant in operation.
“Our approach to setting goals requires data on each covered power plant as well as information on each state, tribe and territory’s historical renewable energy generation and efficiency programs,” EPA Press Secretary Liz Purchia told the Climate Central. “Because none of the territories or tribes have reported historical renewable energy generation or energy efficiency program data to the U.S. government, EPA did not establish goals for the territories and tribes in the proposal.”
Amongst the plants being excused from the plan are a natural gas-fired plant in Utah and three coal-fired plants, including the Navajo Generating Station and the South Point Energy Center in Arizona; and the Four Corners Generating Station in New Mexico. According to EPA data the Navajo Generating Station pumped out 15.4 million metric tons of CO2 in 2012, while the South Point emitted about 530,000 tons in the same year. The Four Corners plant put out 13.2 million tons in 2012, but a recent study showed that its proximity to the nearby San Juan Generating station, which put out nearly 11 million metric tons of CO2 in 2012 and is subject to the Clean Energy Plan – that the region of northwest New Mexico where they are located is the largest single point-source of pollution anywhere in North America and South America.
For now it’s up to the tribal governments operating the plants to voluntarily set their own emissions goals, and at least one Navajo official says they’re going to take a serious look at cutting carbon. “It’s too early to tell what we’re going to do,” Stephen Etsitty, Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency told Climate Central. “I can surely state that we’re going to look very seriously at our opportunities to take on the responsibility to regulate CO2 from these two power plants and other sources that may become eligible in the future.”
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