Tuesday, October 12, 2010

HB10-1365: Colorado Clean Air Clean Jobs Act

Although taking a different approach, like New Mexico, Colorado is taking steps to prepare for impending federal mandates for the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG). Colorado is addressing reduction of GHGs through enactment of legislation to provide incentives for electric utilities to reduce air emissions from coal-fired generation facilities. The Colorado Clean Air Clean Jobs Act (Act) was signed into law by Governor Ritter in 2010. Under the Act, the Colorado legislature found that coordinated planning for emission reductions from coal-fired plants will position Colorado to meet imminent federal legislation requiring emissions reductions. The legislature further found that promotion of the use of natural gas and other "low-emitting resources" will allow Colorado to meet its energy needs and support economic development in the state.

The Act requires public utilities in the state to file with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (the Commission), an emission reduction plan for their coal fired generation facilities. The plan for emission reductions can include a number of elements defined in the Act, for example: retrofitting units with emission control equipment; retiring coal-fired generation facilities and replacing with natural gas fired generation or other low-emitting generation; conversion of the units to run on natural gas; long term fuel supply agreements; new natural gas pipelines and other supporting gas infrastructure; increased natural gas fired generation; and new transmission lines and transmission infrastructure.

Commission proceedings to facilitate implementation of the Act were opened two days after the Act was signed into law. The Act requires that plans be designed to meet reasonably foreseeable and current emission reduction requirements and it is generally acknowledged that the EPA will require the state of Colorado and other states to comply with increasingly stringent regulatory requirements. Xcel testified before the Commission that the "Act provides a pathway for utilities, the Commission, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Air Quality Control Commission to work through an expedited process to address both regional haze requirements and reasonably foreseeable future air quality regulations." Xcel's testimony further highlights the need for transmission and natural gas infrastructure to support integration of intermittent renewable energy resources and to support additional natural gas fired generation, respectively. The Commission has until December 15, 2010 to approve, deny or modify the plans with plan implementation required by December 31, 2010.

Thus comparatively, Colorado is addressing reduction of GHGs by mandating emissions reductions from coal-fired generation facilities; and New Mexico, through the current rulemaking proceedings before the Environmental Improvement Board, is working towards capping emissions of any source that emits in excess of the designated threshold.

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