MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — President Barack Obama unveiled Monday new power plant regulations designed to combat the earth’s changing climate.
Under new rules, power plants have to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent over the next 15 years.

The White House says that will create tens of thousands of jobs as companies switch to renewables like wind and solar.

Critics from energy companies to industry groups are already planning legal challenges in at least 20 states.

Minnesota has been a leader in renewable energy for a long time. Our state is home to more than 145 wind and solar companies.

But we still have coal-burning power plants as well.

On Monday, local energy leaders called for Minnesota to create its own action plan to boost the state’s clean energy efforts.

It’s a divisive issue, but the president is making it clear he believes carbon pollution and climate change are hurting us.

In a video on the White House website on climate change, the Obama says: “Over the past three decades, asthma rates have doubled, as the temperatures keep warming and the smog gets worse, those Americans will be at an even greater risk of landing in the hospital.”

In St. Paul, solar and wind energy business leaders came together to talk about the president’s Clean Power Plan.

“It’s a bold move,” said Dennis Kimm, the president of EVS Inc., a solar energy company. “Someone has to do it. It shouldn’t take 150 years. Twenty years from now, we are going to see the benefit.”

They say it’s good for the environment and for the economy.

“The solar energy industry in Minnesota is going to create jobs, and it’s going to be a major contributor to the reduction in the proliferation of greenhouse gasses,” said Mark Andrew, the president of GreenMark.

They say Minnesota already has about 15,000 people working in clean energy jobs.

Wind and solar energy companies, along with biomass, geothermal, hydro, and waste-to-energy businesses, expect to create more than 35,000 new jobs over the next 15 years.

“We have years of experience here in Minnesota of integrating renewables into our system and transitioning away from carbon intensive power sources like coal,” said Chris Kunkle, the regional policy director at Wind on the Wires. “We can do this.”

Becker is home to a coal-fired power plant that’s one of the largest in the region. At facilities like this, the new plan will limit heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming.

Each state gets to develop its own plan in meeting the new standards.

Xcel Energy, the utility that provides energy for much of Minnesota, was part of the Clean Power Plan ceremony at the White House. Ben Fowke, the company’s CEO and president, said Xcel is on course to achieve the 30 percent carbon dioxide reduction by 2020.

“It will take time to thoroughly review and assess the full impact of the rules,” Fowke said in a statement. “While we expect the Clean Power Plan does not provide everything we hoped for in terms of fully recognizing the early actions of proactive states and utilities, Xcel Energy is ready to move ahead. We look forward to working with our states in the best interest of our customers, ensuring we continue to meet their expectations for clean, reliable and affordable power.”

The EPA administrator says cuts to smog and soot that come along with reducing carbon pollution will bring major health benefits.

The EPA predicts in 2030 this could mean up to 3,600 fewer premature deaths; 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children; 1,700 fewer hospital admissions; and avoiding 300,000 missed days of school and work.