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Utah AG Takes on Power Plant Rules As Regulators Plan to Implement Them

Judy Fahys/KUER
The Huntington Power Plant in central Utah would be affected by the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. A stakeholder group has been planning to accommodate the final regulations, while Atty. Gen. Sean Reyes signed a letter signaling opposition.

Utah regulators have been preparing more than a year for the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations to cut greenhouse gases from power plants. But the state’s top attorney is demanding that EPA put those new controls on hold.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes joined 15 other attorneys general in sending a letter telling the EPA it should drop its Clean Power Plan until the legal fight’s over.

“This will impose great harm on the public,” the letter says, “in terms of increased energy prices, threatened blackouts during periods of increased demand, and lost jobs.”

Reyes isn’t commenting on the letter. But others question the need to fight EPA on the regulations. Attorney Jim Holtkamp represented the Utah Manufacturers Association in a stakeholder group that’s been tracking the climate-change rules since last year.

“To me,” he says, “this letter is 99 percent political and 1 percent legal.”

Holtkamp says Utah regulators and businesses are already on a path to comply with the new regulations, and that’s unlikely to change even if the attorneys’ general eventually file suit.

“As a matter of policy over the years, Utah has always tried to take the lead in these federal environmental programs,” he says, “rather than just default to EPA because we want to be in the drivers’ seat as much as we can.”

While he might agree with the state attorneys who complain about the rule’s complexity, he sees the Clean Power Plan as an important attempt to solve a serious problem that Congress has ignored.

“Climate change should not be a partisan issue,” he says.

The regulations require Utah to cut greenhouse gas emissions 34 percent by the year 2030.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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