State groups react to EPA carbon cutting proposal

Plan would require states to cut emissions 30 percent by 2030
State groups react to EPA carbon cutting proposal
Columbia Plant in Portage

A proposal Monday from the Obama administration aims to curb carbon emissions and global warming.

The plan announced by the Environmental Protection Agency would require states to cut carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030.

In Wisconsin, about a dozen coal-fired power plants provide more than half of the state’s energy. The Columbia Plant in Portage is owned by Alliant Energy, and officials with the company said they are still reviewing what the plan could mean to them.

“The way we view the rules so far when we’ve looked at them is they’re ambitious, but there’s also a flexibility that we’re hopeful, with the tools available at the state level and in the rule, that we’ll be able to comply,” Alliant Energy spokesman Scott Reigstad said.

Alliant has been undertaking projects at its plants, including in Portage, to reduce emissions of mercury and sulfur dioxide. The facilities don’t reduce carbons, but Alliant said their projects can provide a “bridge” to those efforts.

Reaction to the plan from environmental and business groups has been mixed.

Business group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce officials said the rules could drastically increase rates, causing manufacturers to cut jobs.

“As the costs go up for electricity, which is typically the No. 2 or 3 cost for manufacturers, if Wisconsin becomes an economically unsustainable place for manufacturers, they are going to shift manufacturing somewhere else,” said Scott Manley, with WMC.

Environmental group Clean Wisconsin officials said the state has options for how to reduce emissions, including energy efficiency programs for customers like Focus on Energy, which has been successful in reducing costs in Wisconsin.

“Will [the EPA rule] increase rates? Probably, but what people really care about is the amount of their bill,” Clean Wisconsin Policy Director Keith Reopelle said.

Reopelle said the more important effort is stopping global warming.

“There’s just no question that these carbon limits are going to have benefits that far outweigh the costs,” Reopelle said.

A spokesperson for Gov. Scott Walker said in an email that he has real concerns about the new proposal’s impact on jobs in Wisconsin.

“With that in mind, he will direct the Department of Natural Resources to review the EPA’s proposed rule and determine how best for Wisconsin to move forward with preserving our clean air, clean land and clean water without hindering job creation in our state,” the email said.

The EPA will now have a 120-day comment period on the rules, and the state would have until June 30 of 2016 to put together a plan for reducing emissions.