Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper was considering a far-reaching executive order to cut state carbon dioxide emissions from power plants — a drastic measure for a state that relies on coal for most of its electricity.
Hickenlooper’s office is considering an executive order for a “25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2012 levels in 2025” and a “35 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2012 levels in 2030,” according to a draft obtained by Politico Pro that had been circulating among “outside groups.”
A spokeswoman for the governor’s office told Politico the draft is a “very rough outline that we are in the process of vetting for input and discussion.” The spokeswoman said “no decisions have been made.”
But the mere existence of such an executive order has already sparked concern over the fate of ten coal-fired plants, which helped provide about 60 percent of Colorado’s electricity.
Colorado is also home to a bunch of coal mines that could be closed down if the power plants they supply are shuttered.
Hickenlooper’s order also seems to be a hedge against a potential Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) victory in its legal battle against states and businesses over the Clean Power Plan — a regulation to cut power plant CO2 across the country.
The draft is dated September 2016, but it’s unclear if that’s the actual date Hickenlooper planned on rolling out his unilateral order to the energy industry. But already there are doubts the governor has the legal authority to decarbonize the state without legislative approval.
“He can direct state agencies to work with utilities, but he’ll probably need the state legislature if he wants this to have any teeth,” Amy Oliver Cooke, who’s the head of energy policy at the free market Independence Institute, wrote of the order.
“Who gets hurt?” Oliver wrote. “Ratepayers, taxpayers, low income, fixed income, small business, basically anyone who cares about affordable, reliable electricity and has already been hurt by Colorado’s skyrocketing electricity costs.”
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