ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico regulators on Thursday set the stage for a discussion that could result in a novel program aimed at curbing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
The Public Regulation Commission agreed to schedule workshops to consider a proposal that would allow electric utilities to voluntarily opt to reduce carbon emissions from their generating stations by 3 percent a year starting as soon as 2014.
Western Resource Advocates filed the proposal on behalf of 33 environmental groups. Under the plan, utilities would be able to recover the costs associated with compliance.
"We just wanted to get the discussion going," said Steve Michel, chief counsel for Western Resource Advocates.
The idea, Michel said, was to come up with a program that offers a moderate path to emissions reductions but is still aggressive enough to address climate change.
He acknowledged that utilities felt threatened by the mandates approved during former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson's administration to control greenhouse gas emissions in New Mexico.
Earlier this year, state regulators overturned those previous efforts after being petitioned by utilities and industry groups that were concerned about the economic implications of the regulations. Also, the federal government has yet to impose any kind of carbon cap.
Supporters say New Mexico could be a leader since no other state has such a voluntary clean energy standard centered on reducing carbon emissions.