Monday, September 1, 2014

Here are the cuts each state has to make under the EPA's power-plant rule

The Environmental Protection Agency's big new climate rule aims to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from US power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

But different states will have very different individual goals.

Electric utilities in Washington, for instance, will have to reduce the amount of carbon-dioxide they emit per unit of electricity produced by 72 percent between now and 2030. Arizona's power plants will have to cut emissions 52 percent. (Note that these state goals are for carbon intensity, not a change in the absolute level of emissions.)

On the other end, North Dakota will have to reduce the carbon intensity of electricity by just 10.6 percent. And Maine will need to make a 13.5 percent cut.

There's a reason for this — the states vary widely in how much they rely on fossil fuels and in how easily they can switch to cleaner energy. And states with smaller cuts won't necessarily have an easier time.

Emissions cuts vary widely from state to state

Here's a table showing the different cuts in carbon intensity each state will have to make — with an explanation underneath:


Every state currently produces a certain amount of carbon-dioxide for every unit of electricity that it produces. This is the "carbon intensity" of the power sector — and figures from 2012 are shown in column 1.

States that rely more heavily on coal plants, like Nebraska or Kentucky, produce more carbon-dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity. States like Oregon or Idaho that rely more heavily on, say, hydropower dams produce less carbon-dioxide per megawatt-hour.

Now, as part of the new power-plant rules, the EPA will recommend that each state reduce that number by a certain amount by 2030. That's column 2 in the chart above.

New York, for instance, will have to go from producing 983 pounds of carbon-dioxide for every megawatt-hour of electricity it generates down to 549 pounds in 2030. (By the way, Vermont and DC are exempted from the rules because they don't have any fossil-fuel power plants.)

States can reach these goals in a variety of ways. They can expand their use of clean energy. They can shut down their aging coal plants. They can switch from coal to somewhat cleaner natural gas. They can invest in programs that get people to use energy more efficiently.

So why do different states have such different targets (as seen in column 3)? The EPA tried to take into account the state's current energy situation when setting these goals. Some states are already on pace to reduce their emissions quickly: So take Washington, which is expected to reduce its emissions rate a whopping 72 percent. That's partly because Washington is already on pace to phase out a massive coal plant in 2020 anyway. So a big cut is relatively easier for Washington to achieve than it is for, say, North Dakota.

That means these numbers don't tell us how painful or costly it is for states to meet their emissions targets — it just tells us how much is likely to change in each state between now and 2030.

Here's an interactive map from the EPA that offers much, much more detail on how each state would be affected by the new rules. The agency also offers great context for each state's energy situation.

When all the targets get added up, the EPA expects that the overall level of US power-plant emissions in 2030 will be 30 percent lower than they were in 2005.

Further reading: Our complete guide to Obama's new rules to cut carbon emissions from power plants

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