BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A White House plan unveiled Monday to rein in climate change by reducing carbon dioxide pollution from power plants would have a magnified impact in coal-rich Montana, with consequences for both electricity generation and a mining industry that sits atop the largest coal reserves in the U.S.
The draft rules from the Environmental Protection Agency give states flexibility to decide how to meet their share of a nationwide 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide from 2005 levels by 2030.
For Montana, where some reductions already have occurred, emissions would have to be cut an additional 21 percent from recent levels.
POLITICS OF COAL
Supporters said the reductions were needed to stave off rising temperatures that are spurring more forest fires, depleting rivers and leading to drought. They touted potential spin-off benefits to agriculture and tourism and for public health, from reductions in soot and smog pollution that is blamed for respiratory problems in children and some adults.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester called it a "responsible proposal."
"Agriculture and outdoor recreation power Montana's economy. From floods to fires to beetle-killed trees, we know the consequences of the changing climate," said Tester, a Montana Democrat. "State-based solutions that reduce the effects of climate change will keep these industries strong."
Critics including U.S. Rep. Steve Daines warned the new rules could drive up electricity prices — an assertion disputed by the administration. Daines said in a statement that Monday's announcement revealed the Obama administration's "disregard" for those who work for the coal industry.
"Montanans know firsthand the damage that results from these shortsighted policies," the Republican said.
Daine's potential Democratic opponent in the fall election, Montana U.S. Sen. John Walsh, said "appropriate action" was needed. But Walsh stopped short of an explicit endorsement and said the policy must work for Montana.
WORLD-CLASS COAL RESOURCES
Montana leads U.S. states in coal supplies with an estimated 120 billion tons in reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. That's enough to supply the entire country's coal needs for more than a century based on current consumption levels.
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