Colorado enviro groups praise EPA for setting timeline to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

Colorado conservation groups reacted favorably to Thursday’s decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to at least set a timeline for establishing national limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and oil refineries.

“Global warming poses a great threat to Colorado’s mountain ecosystems, tourism industry, and public health. The EPA moving forward with these critical standards underscores that Colorado had been on the right track in replacing the oldest power plants and installing new clean energy,” Dana Hoffman, energy associate for Environment Colorado, said in a release.

“The faster we clean up the largest sources of pollution and transition to cleaner energy sources, the better chance we’ll give future generations to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.“

Hoffman was referring to Colorado’s Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, passed by the state legislature last session and signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter. That bill mandates dramatic reductions in nitrogen oxide and other pollutants by shutting down aging coal-fired power plants on Colorado’s Front Range or converting them to run on natural gas or other forms of alternative energy.

The bill was endorsed by the state’s cleaner-burning natural gas industry and environmentalists but blasted by the coal industry and some Republican politicians.

EPA officials Thursday announced they will propose new standards for new and refurbished power plants by July, with final rules coming in May of 2012. New standards for new oil refineries will come in December of 2011, with the final rules expected by November of 2012. There was no timeline set for new standards for existing power plants and refineries, but the EPA said they’re in the works as well.

These are the looming regulations that Colorado lawmakers cited when advocating for the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, which some politicians argued were unnecessary after Congress failed to enact a comprehensive climate bill, including cap and trade, this session. The Colorado law is seen as a possible national model for complying with looming EPA regulations, but the coal industry and others are expected to fight the Obama administration.

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