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Alaska exempt from new federal clean power rules, for now

The Byron Generating Station in Byron, Illinois. (Creative Commons photo by  iluvcocacola)
The Byron Generating Station in Byron, Illinois. (Creative Commons photo by iluvcocacola)

Alaska will not have to comply with new federal mandates to cut carbon emissions from power plants, at least not yet.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she got word in a phone call from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

“And she said, ‘I listened to you.’”

In the draft rule, Alaska would have had to cut emissions by 26 percent. Murkowski, at a hearing in April, told McCarthy the target was unreachable and that Alaska was different, in part because its limited grid is cut off from all other states. The final rule says the EPA doesn’t have enough information to set target reductions for Alaska and other areas cut off from the national grid. Murkowski says that’s what McCarthy told her.

“She said we realized we didn’t have the data and we didn’t have the data for good reason, because it effectively doesn’t exist,” Murkowski says. “And so she said we realized we could not advance this at least for some time.”

The new national rule, released Monday, requires other states to eliminate about a third of the carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 2030. The final rule doesn’t apply to Alaska, Hawaii, Guam or Puerto Rico.

“I wouldn’t use the word exempt. I would use the word defer,” says Janet McCabe, head of the EPA’s air quality office.

“We intend to work with those jurisdictions and other sources to get information and move forward to finalize a plan. We do not set out a schedule for that at this time but we will move forward with that.”

Murkowski says she repeatedly pressed McCarthy on when the rules for the non-contiguous areas  might be ready and she got no definite answer. The senator says it was her impression time might run out on the Obama Administration before then. Murkowski was visibly happy about the news.

Now, the question is whether she, as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee will join Republican efforts to block the rule from going into effect in other states. Murkowski says she hasn’t had enough time to look at the final version.

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