PHOTO: Christopher Conover, AZPM


The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled its Clean Power Plan Monday, which proposes cutting carbon emissions from the country's power plants by one-third. Arizona will have cut it by one-half over the next 15 years, according to the plan.

These targets vary widely by state.

In 2012, the state’s plants emitted more than 1,400 pounds per megawatt hour. The EPA rule sets Arizona’s emissions goal at just over 700 pounds per megawatt hour by 2030.

The rule doesn’t place targets on individual power plants. Instead, Arizona has one year to outline how it’ll reach its goal.

Joseph Barrios, Tucson Electric Power spokesperson, said TEP is in favor of states being able to make their own emissions reductions plans.

"We think that there should be a range of actions that can be taken by utilities – including actions that are already in progress that would reduce emissions," he said. "And we think the compliance targets and deadlines should be achievable while minimizing cost to the customer.”

The EPA expects the Clean Power Plan to increase energy efficiency, leading to an average decrease of about 8 percent on electricity bills nationally.

But Salt River Project spokesperson Scott Harelson said he thinks that’s probably unrealistic, "because achieving reductions typically require capital investments that can be significant," he said.

Existing power plants are the largest source of the nation’s carbon emissions, accounting for just under 40 percent. Much of this pollution stems from aging, coal-fired power plants.

The new plan already faces widespread opposition from the coal industry, with critics saying the the rule is an attack on the industry itself. EPA officials are already ramping up for an expected onslaught of lawsuits from the industry.

Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the UA's Institute of the Environment, said Arizona is poised to gain from the rule from both an environmental and economic perspective.

"We’ll benefit from the jobs that will be generated as our state switches from a net importer of fossil fuel energy to a net exporter of solar and wind energy," he said. "So this could be a triple win for the state of Arizona.”

While the federal government already imposes limits on certain pollutants, until now there have been no national restrictions on carbon emissions.

The proposed rule is now subject to public comment and will be finalized in one year.