States Provide EPA with a Road Map for Cutting Carbon Pollution

December 16, 2013

In a letter to the EPA today, state environment and energy leaders from 15 states—including midwest and mountain states like Minnesota, Illinois, and Colorado—urged the federal agency to allow states to use their broad clean energy and climate approaches to meet upcoming carbon pollution reduction requirements. 

The group encouraged the federal government to move forward with standards that will achieve significant emission reductions and suggested that their success in using diverse clean energy policies points the way to achieving the new standards in a cost effective way.  They also encouraged the federal agency to develop equitable and measurable standards that will hold states accountable for their progress.

Participating states are CA, CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MD, MA, MN, NH, NY, OR, RI, VT and WA. 

States' Roadmap on Reducing Carbon Pollution
Download the states' submission to EPA

Officials from the 15 states say their diverse approaches to reducing greenhouse gases have already resulted in a 20 percent cut in carbon pollution from the power sector in their states during the last seven years alone, demonstrating the kind of reductions that are possible. Many individual states have achieved even greater reductions in carbon pollution in that time period, in the range of 30 to 46 percent.

In the letter, they urge EPA to set federal standards based on what can be achieved by taking a comprehensive approach to improving the power system as a whole, rather than by regulating carbon pollution at each individual power plant. The letter also includes a detailed survey of 12 of these states’ leading programs and policies to reduce greenhouse gases while growing their economies, and demonstrates the level of reductions that can be achieved on a national basis.

“What Colorado and other states are demonstrating is that by taking a broader, more comprehensive approach to cutting carbon pollution in the power sector, you can achieve meaningful carbon pollution reductions and achieve other benefits,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Real economic, environmental, and public health benefits can be achieved by promoting renewable energy, reducing demand through energy efficiency investments, shifting to cleaner fossil fuel generation, and pursuing an array of statewide and regional energy policies.”

The states submitted these comments to the EPA for consideration as the agency develops guidelines for state programs to reduce carbon pollution from power plants under Clean Air Act section 111(d).  The EPA’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution remain one of the biggest keys to the success of President Obama’s climate plan.

“We really want to see the EPA look to states like Minnesota as they develop the emissions reduction standard,” said John Linc Stine, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  “Here at the state level we’re able to take more comprehensive approaches to cutting carbon pollution.  By using the experiences and innovations found in various states, we’re confident the EPA will come up with fair, measurable standards.”

In the letter, state officials urged the EPA to:

  • Establish a significant emissions reduction standard based on a system that reflects the full range of approaches that states have successfully demonstrated can cost-effectively reduce carbon pollution from the electricity system as a whole.
  • Establish the form of the federal emission guideline in a way that equitably recognizes the multiple starting points and circumstances of different states, including pollution reductions already achieved by states through climate and clean energy programs.
  • Place all states on a trajectory to reach final targets of comparable rigor but allow for a variety of state compliance options, including the use of existing state programs such as renewable portfolio standards, energy efficiency standards, and state or regional carbon pollution caps with market-based components.

Mary D. Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, emphasized that the states’ experience shows the benefit of allowing states to use comprehensive policy tools that improve the power sector as a whole.

“California is a leader in energy efficiency and clean energy, has low per capita greenhouse gas emissions, and low electricity bills,” Nichols said. “The states have always been the laboratories of innovation, and we fully support an approach that allows states to develop their own programs and use comprehensive policy tools that improve the power sector as a whole.”

Ken Kimmell, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, said states that have been leading the way on clean energy and carbon pollution reduction have done so while also boosting economic growth.

“Our states have not only dramatically reduced carbon emissions, they have grown their economies at the same time. For example, Massachusetts has seen over 11 percent annual growth in the clean energy sector as it has invested almost ninety percent of the proceeds from RGGI auctions into energy efficiency, helping to make our state among the most energy efficient in the nation."

This letter and the states’ dialogue that led to it were facilitated by the Georgetown Climate Center.  The group of states has been meeting since June 2013.

The Center has also facilitated several meetings on this topic that include additional states, power company executives, and federal officials. For more information on those dialogues, please visit

Related: States and Power Companies Highlight Successes in Reducing Carbon Pollution from the Power Sector

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