CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois should be able to meet tougher federal limits on pollutants blamed for global warming with a mixture of power sources and energy-efficiency initiatives, state officials and environmental groups said, while opponents in the state's coal-producing regions said the proposal unveiled Monday by the Obama administration could close power plants, raise electricity rates and cost jobs.
The sweeping initiative would curb carbon dioxide emitted by the nation's power plants by 30 percent by 2030, though each state has a customized goal and the flexibility to decide how to reach that target. Illinois was given a goal of cutting emissions by 33 percent, to 1,271 pounds per megawatt hour, from 2012 levels.
State and environmental officials say Illinois is in a good position because some of its coal-fired power plants — which emit most of the heat-trapping pollutant — have added pollution-control equipment or switched to cleaner-burning natural gas, it has 11 nuclear reactors, renewable energy such as wind and solar power is expanding, and there are efforts to encourage energy efficiency. The EPA also will allow states to work together on regional approaches.
"We think we are well situated to approach this rule," Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Doug Scott told reporters last week. "We think we have a good program and will look for ways to make it better," so it's beneficial for the environment and the state's economy.
At the same time, he said, "We are mindful of where our power comes from in the state now and (will) find pathways to compliance."
Scott did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Monday. A phone message left with an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman was not immediately returned.
Almost 49 percent of Illinois' power came from nuclear and 41 percent from coal-fired power plants in 2012, according to federal statistics. Wind energy supplied about 4 percent and natural gas just under 6 percent of power. State officials also passed a bill last week that would provide millions for the Illinois Power Agency to invest in solar power.
Illinois Coal Association President Phil Gonet called the EPA proposal "unfair," saying the new rules could force power plants too old or small to be retrofitted with modern pollution controls offline, squeezing the electricity supply and ultimately raising rates.