On the day of reports that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have surpassed the symbolic threshold of 400 parts per million – a number scientists regard as an ominous tipping point – Durango residents were able to give voice to a new law aimed at reducing emissions.
The World Meteorological Organization released a new report that shows levels of carbon dioxide are increasing into the Earth’s atmosphere at a frightening speed, with emissions in 2015 reaching the highest since recording began.
Finalized on Aug. 3, the Environmental Protection Agency set carbon dioxide goals for each state, called the Clean Power Plan, requiring the reduction of emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent nationwide.
In Colorado, carbon dioxide emissions must be cut by 38 percent, or regulators must reduce the total mass number of tons by 31 percent. On Monday, state officials held a public hearing at Fort Lewis College, asking residents for ideas on how exactly that could be accomplished.
Chris Colclasure, planning and policy program manager for the Department of Public Health and Environment, said Durango is one of five stops to garner public feedback.
“It’s been pretty positive,” said Colclasure. “There’s been some public opposition. But federal law is the law of the land, and our job is to put it into effect.”
Colclasure said Colorado was already on a downward trend for carbon dioxide emissions, but to meet new federal standards, “we will have to do more.” He added there’s been an overwhelming desire for renewable energies in the two towns visited so far.
Werner Heiber, chairman of Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency, said the Clean Power Plan is one small step in addressing climate change, and altering support for alternative energy.
Speaking of Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s federal lawsuit of the plan, and the subsequent backlash from Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper, Werner said he’s sick of the bipartisan shouting match.
“This is not a political issue,” he said. “This is a moral issue. The pope made that clear.”
Christi Zeller, executive director for La Plata County Energy Council, said the industry is still reviewing the new regulations, but she’s concerned whether companies will be credited for the reduction of emissions they did before the enactment of the Clean Power Plan.
In Southwest Colorado, there’s not many coal-burning power plants, so the new standards probably won’t have a major impact on businesses in the area. The nearest plants are in Montrose County, and two plants near Farmington.
But for many, the issue of climate change extends far beyond a region, state or country – it has become a global challenge that needs to be addressed now.
“The argument has always been there’ll be a loss of jobs and rates will go up,” said La Plata Electric Board President Michael Rendon, making clear he was speaking Monday night as an individual.
“And time and time again they’re proven wrong. (The Clean Power Plan) is the right thing to do.”
State officials have until Sept. 2016 finalize a plan, but can opt for an extension of two additional years.