AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine is already a leader in working to reduce carbon emissions through a regional partnership, but new federal regulations will bring relief to its residents by improving air quality and reducing the impacts of global warming, lawmakers and environmental groups said Monday.
Under the sweeping new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan announced Monday and expected to be finalized next year, carbon dioxide emitted by the nation's power plans must be reduced 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. Emission reduction goals vary by state and state officials are being given flexibility in crafting their plans for how to reach them.
The EPA is asking Maine for a 14 percent reduction in emissions from its 2012 output. Environmental advocates said they expect Maine to comply with the new rules through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a nine-state effort that has already curbed carbon emissions overall by more than 40 percent since 2005 and is on track to reach 50 percent by 2020.
David Littell, a former chair and current treasurer of the group, said while it's still examining how the calculations will be made, the federal government will likely allow states to continue to work within the RGGI framework. Littell also serves on Maine's Public Utilities Commission.
That means Maine may not see a big change in how its power plants operate under the new regulations. But the environmental benefits will still be significant, advocates said. A good portion of the pollution Mainers breathe comes from coal-fired power plants in other states, they said.
"Other regions will need to come closer to our clean energy standards and that means less pollution blowing our way," said Lisa Pohlmann, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Members of Maine's congressional delegation similarly praised the announcement Monday. Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who's running for governor, said the regulations could help the state's economy by boosting its clean energy sector.
Jessamine Logan, a spokeswoman for Maine's Department of Environmental Protection, said in an email that the agency is still reviewing the proposed regulations to determine what impact they will have on the state.
But she said the department believes the rules should "preserve state's rights and not disadvantage states," including Maine, that took early action to reduce emissions through the regional partnership.
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