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New coal regulations are powering concern across states

Idaho gears up for new EPA regulations

POCATELLO, Idaho - Ratepayers could be paying more on their electric bills after the Obama administration proposed new regulations this week to cut carbon emissions across the board.

The federal government is leaving it up to each individual state to determine how it will cut its emissions in order to comply with the new regulations.

This is sending coal-reliant states such as Wyoming into much concern, since coal's inexpensive reputation could become just as expensive, if not more, than alternative energy sources.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Wyoming's U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R) said these regulations can be harmful for the American economy, saying increasing power bills will put more people out of work.

"States will have a severely limited number of options for what they can do to meet those standards," Barrasso said. "Every one of those options will raise the cost of energy for American families."

The environmental activist group called Snake River Alliance has been striving to cut emissions within the state of Idaho and sees these new regulations as a victory.

Snake River Alliance Nuclear Program Director Beatrice Brailsford said the new regulations will not only make for a healthier environment, but will help boost the Idaho's economy.

"We now have an opportunity going forward to have some more homegrown energy here in Idaho which will lead to economic development here at home," Brailsford said.

Brailsford said Idaho receives about 40% of its power from coal-powered plants in neighboring states. And she said the number of sicknesses directly linked to these emissions is staggering.

Idaho power companies such as Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power have been voluntarily switching over to alternative sources of energy for the past few years after the Idaho Public Utilities Commission had warned them this change could be coming.

In a statement made Tuesday afternoon, Idaho Power said it has been doing everything it can to make sure it complies with the new regulations while still making sure they are keeping ratepayers' bills as low as possible. 

"Idaho Power has always been mindful of the environmental impact of our operations," the statement said. "Through careful planning, within the company's established integrated resource planning process, we want to minimize the impact on customers and maintain a diverse energy portfolio. We believe any new EPA regulations should contain achievable compliance requirements and deadlines, and minimize impacts to customers."

But, it will take some time before either Idaho Power or the Snake River Alliance representatives can fully understand what the new regulations will state, since they are now in the process of reviewing the nearly 700-page proposal.

Idaho Power community relations specialist Mark Lupo said the company generates 38.8% of its power using coal, and the company has exceeded its goals set in 2009 to reduce the number of these CO2 emissions.

He said this has been done by numerous steps the company has taken to turn to alternative energy sources.

"In a good water year, we can up to 50% from our hydro-plants which we depend on greatly," Lupo said. "Another ten percent of energy we generate from wind energy."

"(The 700-page proposal) is very intense, so I'm sure there are things we wish were stronger or even better focused, but I think this is, globally even, a positive step forward," Brailsford added.

You can read Barrasso's comments here: 

You can read the Snake River Alliance's comment on the new regulations here:

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