California Limits Coal Powerby Becky Brun
NW Current, January 31, 2007
A ruling approved Jan. 25 by the California Public Utilities Commission aims to curb the state's contribution to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
The ruling, scheduled to take effect Feb. 1, outlaws California's investor-owned utilities from purchasing energy from coal-burning power plants in other states, and it restricts the amount of CO2 new California power plants can emit. California utilities currently purchase about 20 percent of their power from coal-burning power plants outside state lines, according to the commission. The new ruling prohibits utilities from purchasing power from sources that emit either more than 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, or the same amount of CO2 that is released from a typical natural gas power plant. Average coal plants emit 2,000 pounds of CO2 -- twice the amount that would be allowed under the new standard -- according to The New York Times.
California ranks among the world's nations as the 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The state's landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), approved Aug. 30, 2006, by the California Legislature, aims to decrease greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels, or 25 percent below current emissions, by 2020.
The recent ruling does not affect current power purchase agreements or California's existing power plants, and it does not apply to municipal utilities. The California Energy Commission is currently drafting similar rules for municipal utilities, according to media reports. However, many California municipal utilities, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, decided in November not to renew power purchase agreements with Utah-based Intermountain Power Agency. The power would have come from a planned coal-burning power plant the agency is building in Utah.
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