RALEIGH — North Carolina’s Republican-led environmental agency is panning the Obama administration’s plan to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants by more than a third by 2030.
State Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokesman Drew Elliot said the federal plan unveiled Monday would lead to lawsuits and higher electricity rates that could hurt job growth.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced individual targets for nearly all 50 states aimed at curbing pollutants blamed for climate change. North Carolina’s assigned target would require emissions reductions of nearly 40 percent from the state’s power plants.
“There are concerns about both the legality and practicality of the rule that could mean costly and unnecessary resources devoted to implementation efforts at the state level while the plan is litigated,” Elliot said. “In the past, EPA plans have been struck down or modified while states are left holding the bag. Obviously we would like to avoid any unnecessary taxpayer expenses.”
In a statement issued Monday, the White House said reducing carbon emissions would not only benefit the environment, but will result in improved energy efficiency and protect the health of the nearly 8 percent of North Carolinians who suffer from asthma.
Elliot said he had not yet seen any cost estimates with implementing the federal plan, but said North Carolina will likely be hit harder than many other states.
“So, just as we get our economic comeback on solid footing, we would be raising electricity prices on North Carolina families and businesses,” Elliot said.
Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who retired after a nearly 30-year career at Duke Energy, has said any new pollution regulations should be “cost efficient.” In a nationally televised interview earlier this year, McCrory sidestepped a question about whether he believes recent changes in the climate are caused by man. McCrory had previously suggested the environment “is in God’s hands.”
“I feel that there’s always been climate change,” McCrory said. “The debate is, really, how much of it is man-made and how much will it cost to have any impact on climate change.”
Under a prior Democratic administration, North Carolina adopted some of the nation’s most aggressive renewable energy standards, requiring electricity providers to generate an increasing portion of the state’s power from wind, solar and methane gas produced by livestock. Supporters of the measure beat back efforts last year to revoke the 2007 law in the state legislature, which is now controlled by Republicans.
A spokesman for Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electricity company and the primary supplier in North Carolina, stressed that the Charlotte-based company has already cut its emissions by about 20 percent in recent years by investing in wind and solar projects and replacing several of its coal-fired plants with cleaner-burning natural gas.
A recent University of Massachusetts study ranked Duke as the nation’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, based on federal data from 2011, the most recent year available.
“We strive to keep our customers’ rates as low as possible and our evaluation of the proposed rule will include a thorough examination of potential compliance costs our customers will ultimately bear,” said Chad Eaton, a company spokesman. “It is too soon to tell what impact EPA’s proposed rule will have on our operations. We will be working closely with our states to evaluate the proposal and will be participating in the rulemaking process.”