The Martin Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs is the seventh filthiest in the state, according to Environment Colorado, a research and policy nonprofit.
“In 2011, [Drake] emitted 1.6 million metric tons of global-warming carbon dioxide pollution, which is about the same as the annual emissions from 34,000 cars,” said Lindsey Wilson, field associate for Environment Colorado.
Drake is not listed among the top five in Colorado in the document, “America’s Dirtiest Power Plants,” a research report released by Environment Colorado.
The top five power plants, in order of dirty to cleaner: Craig, Comanche in Pueblo, Cherokee in Denver, Pawnee near Brush and Hayden.
Wilson and Kim Stevens from Environment Colorado met with Manitou Springs residents last week to discuss coal-fired power plants and how carbon emissions relate to weather changes. They met in conjunction with the release of newly proposed carbon pollution standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. On Sept. 20, the EPA announced under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan proposed carbon emission standards with which new power plants must comply. The plan also calls for new steps to engage stakeholders to establish carbon emission standards for existing plants.
Because Drake is not a new plant, it is not subject to the proposed rules released Sept. 20.
The proposed new rules stem from a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that determined carbon dioxide is an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act and the EPA must determine if CO2 threatened public health and welfare. The federal agency subsequently held open houses to gather public comment.
The EPA has until June 1 to devise proposed carbon pollution standards for existing power plants and to finalize them by June 1, 2015. The new proposed rules would limit carbon emissions to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour for new coal-generating power plants.
According to the EPA, the Drake Power Plant emitted 1.7 million metric tons of pollution in 2011, most of it — 1.69 million metric tons — carbon dioxide.
In 2011, the plant sold 1,548,242 megawatt hours of energy to its customers, according to the plant’s owner, Colorado Springs Utilities.
U.S. power plants emit approximately 2.3 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution each year, 40 percent of the carbon pollution emitted in the country, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
The average coal-fired power plant emits 3.5 million tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere every year, and the average retirement age of these plants is 50 years, the Fund said. The city currently has a taskforce examining whether Drake should be closed or switched to a natural-gas plant.
The American Sustainable Business Council, which represents more than 165,000 businesses, said in a news release, “Business leaders understand that clear market signals are crucial when making investment decisions. EPA’s decision to set limits on carbon pollution will help resolve the uncertainty that is constraining the major investments companies might otherwise consider, putting America’s global competitiveness at risk.
“Business owners realize that investing in cleaner technologies isn’t just good for the planet — it’s also good for the bottom line.”
At the Manitou Springs event, Manitou City Councilor Coreen Toll spoke of unusual weather in 2012 and 2013, in addition to the fires and floods. Scientists have “documented” the new weather cycle, affected by pollution from carbon dioxide emissions, Toll said.
“Global warming leads to climate change, and climate change leads to extreme weather events, such as these fires and floods,” Toll said.
“With the events like the massive floods here in Manitou Springs becoming more frequent and severe, Colorado business owners are only beginning to feel the impacts of global warming,” said Julia Wright, an owner at Commonwheel Art Cooperative.