EPA: Florida must cut carbon emissions 38 percent

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The federal government is proposing that Florida cut its carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 38 percent by the year 2030.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced specific targets for all states Monday as part of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants nationwide by nearly a third over the next 15 years.

Florida’s 2012 carbon emission rate was more than 1,200 pounds per megawatt hour of energy produced. The EPA is asking the state to develop a plan to lower that to about 740 pounds.

Gov. Rick Scott’s office on Monday touted Florida’s air quality.

“Thanks to efforts to curb air pollution statewide, Florida air emissions are the lowest on record. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will review the EPA’s proposal and will work to continue to protect Florida’s environment,” said Scott’s spokesman, John Tupps.

Last month, DEP officials said emissions of key industrial pollutants that contribute to the formation of ozone and fine particulate matter continued to decline in the state, and that power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides decreased 83 percent over the last decade.

Florida will choose how to meet the EPA’s goal for carbon dioxide and could work with other states to comply with the proposed rule. Initially, President Barack Obama wanted each state to submit their plans by June 2016. However, the draft proposal shows states could have until 2017 – and 2018, if they join with other states to tackle the problem.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio blasted the proposal in an interview with Orlando radio station WFLA.

“What they don’t understand, or seem to want to ignore, is that the largest contributors of carbon to the atmosphere today are developing countries like China and India,” Rubio said. “Americans are going to pay a terrible price for these sorts of unilateral executive actions the president is taking on energy.”

This spring, Florida’s Republican-led Legislature passed a nonbinding resolution urging Congress to allow the state to develop its own standards for regulating carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

State lawmakers said consumers would end up paying the costs of compliance with federal rules. That also is a concern at Tampa Electric, which is evaluating the EPA proposal, spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said.

Both Tampa Electric and Florida Power and Light, the state’s two largest utilities, have invested billions in modernizing their power plants and cutting carbon dioxide emissions, officials said.

“While we continue to review the proposed guidelines in detail, we appreciate that EPA’s plan recognizes efforts that states and companies have made already,” said FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski.

Obama said Monday that Americans’ electricity bills would shrink due to the new emissions limits.

According to the EPA, Florida gets about 20 percent of its energy from coal. The cost of reducing emissions will depend on how the state chooses to reach its target.

David Guest, an attorney with the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, said the EPA proposal could push the state to consider more renewable energy sources.

“It’s our hope that Florida will ramp up production of solar energy and put the sun back in the Sunshine State,” he said.

While some states will be allowed to emit more and others less, overall the reduction will be 30 percent nationwide. Florida, Texas and New York – three of the country’s most populous states – are among the states being directed to cut emissions by more than a third.

Reprinted with permission from the Associated Press.