Utah officials and other members of the Western Climate Initiative on Wednesday called for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the region 15 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020.
Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. said he will work with Utah's industries and other stakeholders to develop specific state goals on reducing the emissions, which are mostly carbon dioxide.
Utah signed onto the initiative in May, joining with California, New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon and Washington. The group aims to reduce the emissions that are believed to cause global warming. The Canadian provinces of Manitoba and British Columbia have also committed to the program.
Nevada, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming are attending meetings of the regional group but are not official members.
During a telephone news conference Wednesday, Janice Adair, policy leader for climate change in the state of Washington's Department of Ecology, said that the regional goal of a 15 percent reduction "is consistent with the member, state and provincial greenhouse-gas reduction goals."
David Van't Hof, Oregon's adviser on sustainability and renewable energy, said the 15 percent figure was derived from an aggregate of members' goals and records.
Dianne Nielson, the Utah state energy adviser, said planners believe the strategy will make energy supply more diverse, improve energy security, spur development of renewable energy sources and help prompt new technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration, in which a power plant's carbon dioxide would be captured and stored underground.
Despite the development of new technologies, she said, "coal in the future will be important in Utah," although she believes that important technological improvements will take place.
Asked about why Republican-dominated Utah would join with "blue states" that tend to vote more for Democrats, in order to work on the initiative to combat global warming, she said, "This really isn't a partisan issue. ... This is a global problem calling for a global solution."
Adair said that members of the group will report on their efforts every two years. The group is committed to designing a market-based technique, such as a program involving capping and trading emission rights, by the end of August 2008.
According to a news release from the group, scientists have said that emissions need to be reduced by 50 percent to 85 percent worldwide by 2050 in order to lower the risk of dangerous threats to the climate. The initiative's member states and provinces have not outlined if or when they plan to set further emission-reduction goals to meet the scientists' recommendation.
But as a step towards reducing greenhouse gases, states in the initiative are working to get permission to implement their own vehicle emission standards.
Michael Gibbs, representing California, said his state also is setting emission standards for new coal-fired power plants and for new contracts for the delivery of power from existing plants. Among plants affected is the Intermountain Power Project, which has two units near Lynndyl, Millard County, in Utah. Plans for a third unit there are on hold because of concerns over the California regulations.
According to Gibbs, the new California standards would prohibit using conventional coal technology in power plants.Steve Owens, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said the traditional burning of pulverized coal in power plants "is really becoming outdated technology."