Associated Press  [Printer-friendly version]
January 25, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: California bans purchase of energy from coal-
burning power plants, taking precautionary action without mentioning
precaution. "It represents a significant milestone in our ongoing
efforts to address the challenge of climate change," said Michael
Peevey, president of the Public Utilities Commission.]

By Terence Chea

San Francisco (AP) -- California regulators on Thursday banned the
three companies that supply most of the state's power from buying
electricity from high-polluting sources, including most coal-burning

The rules are aimed at reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases
linked to global warming. While there are almost no coal-fired plants
in California, about 20 percent of the state's electricity comes from
coal plants in other Western states.

"It represents a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to
address the challenge of climate change," said Michael Peevey,
president of the Public Utilities Commission.

But the three investor-owned utilities regulated by the commission say
that little of their electricity supply now comes from coal, and that
they support the new emissions standard.

Coal makes up only 1 percent of electricity at Pacific Gas & Electric
Co. in San Francisco, 7 percent at Southern California Edison in
Rosemead and 3 percent at San Diego Gas and Electric, which is owned
by Sempra Energy.

The Public Utilities Commission voted 4-0 to prohibit the utilities
from entering into long-term contracts with sources that emit more
carbon dioxide than a modern natural gas plant.

California's municipal utilities are not regulated by the commission
and will not be directly affected by its decision. Those utilities
supply less of California's power, but a greater share of their
electricity comes from out-of-state coal plants.

The California Energy Commission, which regulates those utilities, is
drawing up similar rules expected to be issued by July.

Municipal utilities in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Pasadena and Truckee ran
into strong opposition when they tried to secure long-term contracts
with out-of-state coal plants before the emissions standard takes

The new standard is aimed at encouraging investment in cleaner energy
sources such as wind and solar, while discouraging the use of coal and
other high-polluting fuels.

Coal is cheap and plentiful but releases high levels of carbon
dioxide, a gas blamed for trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere and
raising temperatures worldwide.

The rule is expected to take effect Feb. 1.

Landmark global warming legislation Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed
into law last year required the commission to adopt emissions
standards for utilities.

Environmentalists praised the decision, saying it could encourage
other states to adopt similar rules.

"Other states may look at it and decide that they also want to
transition from dirty coal power to cleaner, green power," said Jim
Metropulos of the Sierra Club.

Luke Popovich of the Washington-based National Mining Association said
restricting emissions would drive up energy costs and have little
effect on global warming unless other countries adopt similar limits.

"We don't think it makes sense for the United States to unilaterally
deny itself use of its most abundant energy source, which is coal,"
Popovich said.

Copyright The Associated Press