ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico gets most of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, but new federal guidelines aimed at reducing pollution could mean changes for the state and higher electricity rates for customers, state officials said Monday.
The Obama administration's long awaited proposal calls for curbing carbon dioxide emissions at power plants nationally by nearly one third over the next 15 years. Each state is required to come up with a plan for reaching specific goals set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some states will be allowed to emit more pollutants and others less.
The EPA wants New Mexico to aim for a 33 percent reduction of 2012 levels, when power plants in the state emitted some 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Meeting the federal standards will be challenging for New Mexicans, who get more than two-thirds of their electricity from coal-fired plants and another quarter from natural gas-fired plants, both of which emit carbon dioxide.
Still, New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said the state is in a good position to meet the standards thanks to a recent agreement brokered by Gov. Susana Martinez's administration, the state's largest electric utility and the EPA to shutter two units at a major coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico.
The agreement targeted haze-causing pollution at the San Juan Generating Station, but carbon dioxide emissions will also be reduced by half as a result.
"On one hand, I'm pleased that we appear to be well positioned," Flynn said. "On the other hand, I still remain concerned about impacts to consumers. There's no question that EPA's action is going to result in increased costs for electric generation around the country."
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., was among the lawmakers arguing that the regulations will cost the economy billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs while having a marginal effect on global carbon emissions.
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