Utah clean air advocates energized by President Obama's plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - It's one of the most aggressive actions ever taken by the federal government on climate change. Monday President Obama announced a new plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from America's power plants over the next couple of decades. Today's announcement couldn't have come at a better time for clean air advocates here in Utah. 

A Clean Energy Summit was held at the Salt Lake City Main Library Monday night which was designed to act as an alternative voice to what's expected to be heard at Governor Herbert's Energy Summit later this week.

HEAL Utah's Executive Director was excited to hear of President Obama's proposal to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 30% by 2030. 

Christopher Thomas told ABC 4 Utah, "We were thrilled to hear today that for the first time every our country is going to set standards and limits for carbon pollution."

The proposed regulations could mean a big clean up for Utah. Some estimates show nearly two-thirds of the state's power is generated by coal-fired power plants and that those plants emit more than 12 million tons of carbon a year.

"Unfortunately at the Governor's energy summit you'll hear a lot of people poopooing the new standards, but we think they're a huge step forward and in fact if you ask Utahans what kind of power they want they want clean power they want to buy solar and wind," said Thomas.

Currently only about 10% of the state's power comes from renewable sources like wind and solar. HEAL Utah says new utility reports out of Colorado show solar is now cost competitive with other forms of energy production.

Thomas said, "They said it's the first time they've seen it, but it's not surprising seeing as how the cost of solar keeps going down and down and down and conversely the cost of coal fired power keeps going up."

Still Republicans and business groups oppose the President's plan saying it will cost American jobs and add to consumer energy costs.

Karen Harbert with the Energy Institute U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, "Environmental regulations that are coming into effect will retire 60% of today's coal fleet."

The plan still needs approval and could change by the time it's finalized next summer, that's why local advocates say now is the time to act.

Rebecca Walsh, Western Clean Air Manager for National Parks Conservation Association said, "If people care about about this issue they need to get their voices heard and let the EPA know, and the state because the state will be setting state rules."

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