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Federal plan orders Minnesota to cut carbon emissions 41 percent

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The Obama administration's new plan to reduce greenhouse gases calls on Minnesota to cut carbon emissions from power plants by more than 40 percent over 15 years.

The Associated Press reports the nationwide goal of the plan released Monday is to see carbon emissions in 2030 that are 30 percent lower than their 2005 levels.

To reach that goal the Environmental Protection Agency is setting customized targets for each state. States that rely heavily on coal to generate electricity have smaller reduction targets.

The AP says power plants are the biggest source of the greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for climate change, accounting for about one-third of the country's carbon emissions per year.

A report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency using numbers from 2010 showed the state is consistent with that. The MPCA broke down the sources of greenhouse gas emissions by sector. It found power plants responsible for about one-third of the total and transportation one-fourth, followed by agricultural and industrial sources.

A fact sheet released by the White House notes that Minnesota has already made strides, with power plants having reduced carbon emissions more than 10 percent from 2008 through 2011.

According to the AP, the new proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency won't be finalized until next year. It would require each state to report back to the agency with a plan for reaching its target by 2030.

Forbes reports the regulations may have the biggest impact not on the biggest polluters – which are large companies – but on small rural co-ops dependent on coal-fired plants.

In Minnesota that would mean Great River Energy, which serves 28 local co-ops in Minnesota and Wisconsin. A report released last week by the non-profit energy group Ceres says coal generates 94 percent of Great River Energy's capacity.

Forbes says Great River's reluctance to retire older coal-fired plants and seek cleaner resources was a factor in Minnesota regulators taking the unusual step of rejecting the company's business plan last year.

The state Pollution Control Agency was reviewing the EPA's 645-page report after it was released Monday. An assistant commissioner told MPR News the agency will review emissions data and goals that are sometimes measured differently "... and then figure out where we are, where we need to be and what that's going to look like," David Thornton told the network.

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