New York in group welcoming pollution cuts

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By MICHAEL VIRTANEN
— While New York and eight other Eastern states report cutting power plant pollution by 40 percent over the past decade, the Obama administration has proposed national guidelines calling for new steep cuts over the next 15 years.

The states' effort, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which sets pollution caps and requires using or buying credits to exceed them, welcomed the federal proposal. “The RGGI states will continue to review the proposed rule, and applaud EPA's recognition of regional market-based programs," the group said.

The federal plan calls for a 30 percent reduction in power plants' carbon dioxide emissions nationally by 2030 with varying state targets. For New York, based on a formula, it appears to target a 44 percent cut from its 2012 emission rate.

New York officials said on June 9 they were studying the 2,000-page federal draft, declining to immediately comment.

The power plant emissions blamed in part for global warming come for burning fossil fuels, with coal the dirtiest, oil second and natural gas third. Other reductions come from improved power plant efficiency, reducing consumption and adding solar and wind power as alternatives.

New York's production of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, is about half the national average per person, according to the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority. That's largely because half of its electricity is produced from nuclear and water power, and a large share of its 19 million people take public transportation in the greater New York City area instead of cars, which also pollute.

“The RGGI states clearly have a leg up on states that haven't acted on climate change before," said Jackson Morris of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We're confident the RGGI states will be positioned to comply in a manner that both reduces emissions and saves consumers money on their energy bills."

Those states currently have plans in place for 2.5 percent annual emission reductions through 2020. That could be revised and extended through 2030 in their responses to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal, which are due in 2016.

The other RGGI states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

New York has only a handful of coal-fired power plants, some inactive; burns little oil for electricity because it's currently too expensive; and has been adding to the power grid megawatts from solar panels and windmills. The Cuomo administration has established a green bank to help finance renewable energy projects.

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