Gov. John Hickenlooper is at odds with the Attorney General Cynthia Coffman over her adding Colorado to a list of states suing the Environmental Protection Agency to block the implementation of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The governor has asked the state’s Supreme Court for an opinion as to whether her actions are legal.
The governor has the high ground on this one. Coffman’s actions make sense only in the context of Republican opposition to anything with President Obama’s name attached. Cleaning up America’s production of electric power is necessary and prudent. It is, in fact, critical to the nation’s future.
The Clean Power Plan is a collection of regulations intended to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants all around the country, with an overall goal of reducing them 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Each state has its own goal and is allowed flexibility in how to reach it. With a 32 percent national goal, the final rule is somewhat tougher than the EPA’s initial proposal.
This is not a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter federal imposition. It is a workable effort to address a real and recognized problem.
Colorado’s goal is to achieve a 28 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions compared to a 2012 benchmark. That amounts to a 40 percent reduction in the number of pounds of carbon dioxide produced per megawatt of electricity generated.
And there is every reason to think Colorado can do that. The state set a goal in 2010 for investor-owned utilities to generate 30 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2020. As The Denver Post reported Monday, Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy – Colorado’s biggest energy supplier – has cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 26 percent since 2005 and is on course to see a 35 percent reduction by 2020.
Critics, of course, predict astronomically high electric rates, power shortages, lost jobs and economic catastrophe. But then they always do. Any push for cleaner air elicits the same litany of dire consequences – few if any of which ever come true.
Might the Clean Power Plan cost jobs? Of course, among people who sell coal. Then again, companies and workers involved in making or maintaining wind mills might prosper, perhaps along with producers of natural gas and manufacturers of solar panels.
Tourist-related industries and ski areas may not directly profit from reducing carbon monoxide emissions, but they could enjoy the publicity Colorado’s leadership could engender – and they certainly stand to lose if nothing is done about climate change. Besides, the effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will also cut other kinds of pollution. And part of what Colorado markets is its pure, blue sky.
Coffman contends the Clean Power Plan violates some part of the Clean Air Act and is therefore illegal. Hickenlooper questions whether the attorney general has the authority to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the state over the governor’s objection.
The state Supreme Court can answer the governor on that, while the U.S. Supreme Court could at some point be asked to speak to Coffman’s contention. A better outcome, however, would be if neither court were involved.
After all, what is there about cleaner air that is objectionable – even if Obama’s name is on the plan? Colorado does not need to get involved. Attorney General Coffman should drop this unnecessary effort and let the governor get on with cleaning up Colorado’s power.