In the week since the Obama administration unveiled new rules to curb carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants, Wyoming regulators have been digging in, trying to figure out exactly what they’ll mean for the Cowboy State. So far, they have more questions than answers.
Al Minier, chair of the Public Service Commission, wants to know how Environmental Protection Agency came up with 19 percent as the goal for how much Wyoming needs to reduce its emissions by 2030. Each state’s individual reduction goal is supposedly tailored to what can be reasonably accomplished, but Minier isn’t sure about the EPA's numbers.
“I think there’s some things to fight about," Minier says. "But I think you also have to sort of work the problem as opposed to fight the problem sometimes, and I’m just part of the set of people whose job it is to work the problem.”
Before the rule came out, Minier’s biggest concern was that it would require coal-fired power plants to shut down before the end of their useful lives. He says the rule doesn’t address the fact that most of Wyoming’s coal fleet isn’t scheduled for retirement until after the 2030 deadline. It also doesn’t answer the question of how the state is supposed to increase renewable energy by 10 percent. Or how Wyoming can pass the cost of reducing emissions on to other states that buy its power.
“But I wouldn’t spend a lot of time, if I were a consumer, getting excited about this,” Minier says.
That’s because there’s still a lot to learn about the rule -- and still a lot that will change before it ultimately goes into effect.