California sets the standard in a number of areas: automobile design, outdoor recreation and CO2 reduction.
That's right. Not only does the largest state in the union by population dictate whether a car buyer in Utah can get 4-wheel drive as an option on a car, the Golden State is far ahead of its neighbors in efforts to control greenhouse-gas emissions. And now its largest city rightly opposes a decision that would take the region backward to dirtier air.
In 2006 the California Legislature passed a bill establishing the most extensive carbon dioxide emission controls in the country. The law requires a reduction in emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with the first major controls taking effect this year. The law sets continuing emission targets and noncompliance penalties.
By comparison, a consortium of Northeastern states agreed in 2005 to reduce CO2 emissions in the same time frame by 24 million tons. The California mandate will result in a reduction of 174 million tons. Factoring expected population growth, Californians have pledged to reduce their per-capita emissions from about 13 metric tons per person per year to less than 2 metric tons per person per year by 2050.
Utah, on the other hand, has no state mandate toward emission-reduction goals beyond those imposed by the federal government. And, when it comes to pollution, what's created in another state doesn't necessarily stay there. In fact, all the Western states must share the emissions created by each one.
With all that as background, it's easy to see why the Los Angeles City Council is annoyed by the Bureau of Land Management's preliminary approval of an expansion of Alton Coal Development's Coal Hollow Mine on public land just 10 miles south of Bryce Canyon National Park. Council members are considering a resolution opposing the plan, citing the mine's potential to ruin the air over the park.
L.A. city officials know that coal mining and the burning of this dirty energy source will only add to the pollution their state is trying to reduce. While Utah gets nearly 90 percent of its power from coal, just 39 percent of California's power comes from coal, and the state is working on further reductions. Los Angeles, which now buys 45 percent of the power produced by the coal-burning Intermountain Power Project in Delta, a customer of the Alton mine, plans to cut off all purchases of coal power by 2020.
The BLM and Utah should take a page from California's playbook.