The Trump administration announced Monday the repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a policy enacted by the Obama administration in 2015. The CPP set out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants by 32 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. The policy let each state determine how they’d achieve those reductions, and allowed states who might struggle to meet the goals (like West Virginia, Georgia, and Texas, whose economies rely heavily on fossil fuels, according to an analysis by the Rhodium Group) to buy emissions-reduction credits from states who adopted renewable energy and energy efficiency programs earlier on. Under the CPP, states had until 2022 to achieve partial emissions reduction levels and until 2030 to reach the CPP’s full emissions reductions goal.

For states that have their own emission-reducing plans, like Colorado, the repeal means very little in way of changing course. The Centennial State continues to be on pace to exceed the emissions reductions goals laid out in the CPP, according to local officials.

In July of this year, Governor John Hickenlooper issued an executive order commiting Colorado to the U.S. Climate Alliance. The Alliance is a band of U.S. states plus Puerto Rico that have taken it upon themselves to sign onto the Paris Agreement, a global accord committing nations to fighting climate change on their own turf. Hickenlooper’s executive order laid out specific goals for the state, like cutting carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 35 percent (of 2012 levels) by 2030, and reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions by more than 26 percent (of 2005 levels) by 2025. The detailed plans for reaching those numbers are still being worked out by several public and private stakeholders. 

“Here in Colorado, clean energy is not a partisan issue: 95 percent of Coloradans want to see our state move toward a cleaner energy future,” Hickenlooper said in a statement issued Tuesday in response to the Trump administration’s CPP announcement. “Clean energy is an economic engine for our state and for our nation.”

Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment environmental programs director Martha Rudolph told 5280 in an email that the state is still on target to exceed CPP reductions goals, with or without national leadership.

“Repealing the CPP is just another step in the wrong direction and puts our country at greater risk for the impacts of climate change,” Rudolph said. “Colorado has demonstrated that reducing these harmful emissions can be done in a cost-effective way that adds jobs in the renewable energy sector. The EPA ought to look to states, like Colorado, for their leadership in addressing climate [change] while maintaining a strong and diverse economy.”

In 2004, Colorado voters passed the Renewable Energy Standard (RES), a measure that requires electricity providers to obtain a minimum percentage of their power from renewable energy sources. Since then, the state legislature has increased the standards laid out in the RES, requiring investor-owned utilities to generate 30 percent of their power from renewable sources and cooperative utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable sources.

In 2015, Governor Hickenlooper released the Colorado Climate Plan, a 93-page document that outlines state policy recommendations for adapting to the future impacts of climate change, as well as suggested opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Even though Colorado agencies aren’t worried about meeting the state’s own emissions reductions goals, Rudolph says a lack of national leadership could hamper inter-state cooperation to combat climate change. Plus, the environmental impacts of states who might contribute more emissions without the CPP than they would have without its repeal will still impact Colorado; state lines mean nothing to greenhouse gases in the air.

“The repeal won’t affect our ability to reach our goals,” Rudolph said. “But, other states may struggle without a federal mandate, so their emissions could impact Colorado. We would have been working with other states to reduce emissions, but with the repeal of the CPP and the lack of national leadership, it is more difficult for many states to work together.”

Haley Gray
Haley Gray
Haley Gray is a Boulder-based freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in 5280, Roads and Kingdoms, Boulder Magazine, and the Albuquerque Journal.