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State won't rush comment on new CO2 rules

Jun 19, 2014 - By Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- The federal government began taking comments Wednesday on proposed rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions. But Wyoming officials aren't rushing ahead to formally weigh in just yet.

Gov. Matt Mead said his staff and other state officials continue to study the more than 650 pages of proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules released earlier this month.

The EPA comment period continues through Oct. 16. Eventually, the governor's office, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the Wyoming Public Service Commission will submit comments, Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said.

Just not right away.

"Our first take was this doesn't look good. But we want to analyze it, and we want to have our comments very targeted," Mead said at a news conference Wednesday. "We don't disagree there needs to be rules and regulations. It's our definition of what are reasonable rules and regulations and is it going to get us to where we want to go?"

Wyoming is the top coal-producing state, and the vast surface mines in the Powder River Basin supply close to 40 percent of the nation's coal. Meanwhile, close to 90 percent of all electricity generated in Wyoming comes from coal-fired power plants.

The coal-fired power helps to make Wyoming No. 1 for CO2 emissions per person, although around two-thirds of electricity generated in Wyoming goes to other states.

Far more government funding goes to renewable energy research than finding ways to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, Mead pointed out.

Meanwhile, he said, the EPA proposes CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants far below the levels emitted by the most up-to-date plants in Wyoming. "All of these things collectively certainly look to us like coal is being targeted, to the detriment of Wyoming but even more importantly to the detriment of the United States," Mead said.

So far, Mead has been more reserved about criticizing the rules than Wyoming's congressional representatives, who pledge to work to block them. Not that Mead's office has refrained from confronting the EPA: Wyoming is involved in almost a dozen lawsuits against the agency on natural resource issues.

Mead said it's unfortunate states and the federal government can't work together better rather than having disputes between them play out in federal court.

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