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California Ahead Of Curve As Clean Power Plan Takes Effect

freethesun / Flickr

freethesun / Flickr

Sanden Totten | KPCC

New federal rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emission from power plants take effect Tuesday. The goal is to cut carbon pollution nationwide by more than 30 percent over the next 15 years.

It's known as the Clean Power Plan, and it was designed by the Environmental Protection Agency as the nation's first limits on carbon pollution from power plants, which is the largest source of greenhouse gases.

As part of that, every state must come up with ways to switch to clean energy. Several states have sued to block the rule, but if it passes judicial scrutiny, California will likely hit the goal well before the deadline.

"We’re already on our way to meeting and exceeding the requirements of the Clean Power Plan," said Alex Jackson with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The federal plan sets goals for each state and gives them until 2030 to fully implement them. By some estimates, California will hit its target 10 years ahead of schedule. 

That is in large part to the state's own ambitious clean energy plans, like cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the end of the decade and getting half the state's energy from renewables by 2030.

NRDC’s Jackson says when other states start crafting their plans, they may want to borrow a page from California's playbook.

"California’s own ambition on clean energy will continue to shape the national story, not the other way around," he said.

He added that California’s economy is likely to get a boost as states look to its booming renewable energy sector for new technology.

That's not the only windfall the Golden State may see thanks to the new law, says Dave Clegern with the California Air Resources Board.

"One possible upside would be to increase the size of the carbon market," he explained.

Right now California is the only state in the U.S. with a cap and trade market for buying and selling carbon. Currently Quebec is California's only partner in this effort, but Clegern says that might change as more states look for ways to incentivize power plants to go green.