JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — To meet newly proposed federal standards, Missouri would need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by more than one-fifth by 2030 — a less aggressive target than set for many states, but still too burdensome in the view state Republican officials.
The proposal released Monday from President Barack Obama's administration seeks significant reductions in the greenhouse gases that can contribute to climate change. But the Environmental Protection Agency's state-by-state goals are not as aggressive for some places, such as Missouri, that rely most heavily on coal to produce electricity.
Some environmental groups expressed confidence that Missouri's utilities could meet the new goals, in part by boosting their use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
Several of the state's top Republican officials criticized the proposal from the Democratic president, suggesting it could drive up the price of electricity by forcing power companies to switch to energy sources that are more costly than coal.
"I will fight the president and his administration every step of the way to stop this unprecedented power grab and protect Missourians," said U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer said the proposed regulation "will have a devastating impact" on Missouri consumers. U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner accused Obama of "governing by executive fiat and waging a war on affordable energy and hardworking Americans."
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said she is withholding judgment on the proposed EPA regulation while she studies it and gathers public input.
More than 79 percent of Missouri's electricity was generated by burning coal in 2012, one of the highest percentages in the nation. The EPA said Missouri's carbon dioxide emission rate was 1,963 pounds per megawatt hours of electricity. The agency set a goal of lowering carbon pollution to 1,544 pounds per megawatt hours in 2030, a reduction of 21 percent.
Nationwide, the EPA set a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by nearly one-third.
Each state is supposed to come up with a plan to implement the federal guidelines.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said in a written statement that his administration will review the federal proposal with a focus on whether it provides flexibility "to ensure consumers and businesses have access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy from a diverse portfolio of sources."
Also pending before Nixon is a bill passed this year by Missouri's Republican-led Legislature that attempts to blunt the impact of the EPA rules. It states that Missouri regulators could develop emission standards for individual power plants that are less stringent than the federal guidelines while taking into account such factors as the costs to utilities and consumers.
Heather Navarro, executive director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, described Obama's proposals as "good first step" toward what eventually needs to be a "drastic change" in the way the U.S. produces energy.
Missouri already has a voter-approved law requiring investor-owned utilities to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021. A separate state law encourages utilities to provide incentives for consumers to adopt energy efficiency measures, such as better windows, insulation or lighting.
The EPA's carbon emission standards could push utilities toward a quicker implementation of such programs, said PJ Wilson, director of the Columbia-based nonprofit Renew Missouri, which supported the renewable energy initiative.
States have several options for meeting the EPA's carbon emission targets. They can make power plants more efficient, reduce the amount of electricity supplied by coal-fired power plants and invest in more renewable energy sources. States also can expand programs that reduce demand for electricity by making houses and businesses more energy-efficient.
Officials at the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and Ameren Missouri, the state's largest investor-owned power company, said they plan to study the proposed regulations and the potential effect on prices for their customers. Both entities said they already have taken steps to reduce coal-related pollution and increase their reliance on renewable energy sources.
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