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Obama's Clean Power Plan Is Out, What Does It Mean For Colorado?

White House
Screencap from President Obama's speech from the White House on the Clean Power Plan, Aug. 3, 2015.

Speaking at the White House Monday, President Obama released the final version of the nation's Clean Power Plan. It calls forbig cuts of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide, but allows each state to meet those reductions in its own way.

Some states have already taken steps to reduce their emissions, and Colorado, with a fairly aggressive renewable energy standard, is ahead of the game, say most experts.

"It seems to me that Colorado is already largely on a path that will meet or come close to the requirements of the Clean Power Plan," said Paul Komor, Energy Education Director at the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Some places in the state may see more impacts than others, though. Coal-fired power plants are singled out as a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions in the plan, with calls for electricity from coal to be reduced to 27 percent of the country's energy mix, down from 50 percent in 2005.

That will have an impact on Colorado coal-mining towns, already seeing job losses from the existing downturn in coal's fortunes. In his announcement of the plan, President Obama acknowledged this problem.

The president said he plans to work with Congress to "invest in revitalizing coal country, and supporting health care and retirement for coal miners and their families, and retraining those workers for better-paying jobs, and healthier jobs."

On the other side of the energy coin, this version of the plan asks for more renewable energy than the first draft. Komor, at the University of Colorado, said the nation is already moving in that direction, recalling how energy technology has transitioned throughout the years, from wood to coal and now to renewables. This could benefit Colorado, home of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a booming solar industry.

Also highlighted by the president were the new job opportunities available with a transition to more renewable power. In a statement, Michael Rucker, president of Harvest Energy Services, a Boulder-based developer of wind energy projects, agreed.

"Now it’s up to Colorado’s business community to help cut carbon pollution by deploying more renewable energy, and using energy smarter through energy efficiency. These investments will benefit our economy and help create thousands of new jobs statewide," said Rucker.

According to a fact sheet released by the White House, Colorado's goals are "for investor-owned utilities to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020, with goals of 10 to 20 percent renewables for municipal utilities and electricity cooperatives. The state also has goal to cut electricity consumption 5 percent below 2006 sales by 2018."

Read the full Clean Power Plan at the Environmental Protection Agency's website.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn has been reporting from Colorado for more than five years, primarily from the Western Slope.
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