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Wisconsin energy experts take a look at Obama's EPA order to reduce carbon emissions

UNDATED, WI (WTAQ) - It’s uncertain how much Wisconsin would be affected by President Obama’s new order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The president has told the EPA to come up with a draft rule by next June first, and a final rule in mid-2015.

Wisconsin utilities have spent millions in recent years to reduce other chemicals that cause respiratory illnesses – but none of those units can stop the release of carbon dioxide.

Nathan Conrad of the state Public Service Commission – which regulates Wisconsin utilities – said the Obama order is quote, “heavy on hyperbole but light on specifics.” He says the fine print will be vital to the Badger State, which produces 60% of its energy with coal-fired generation.

Keith Reopelle of Clean Wisconsin expects utilities to convert its coal-fired power plants to natural gas – just like We Energies has done at some of its facilities.

Brian Manthey of We Energies says his utility will ask the EPA to credit the utility for the moves they’ve already made to reduce carbon emissions. He says it all depends on what the EPA ends up proposing.

Meanwhile, the head of a national group that represents the state’s rural electric cooperatives is criticizing the new directive.

Jo Ann Emerson says rural America will be “disproportionately penalized” because of its heavy reliance on coal. She calls it a “regressive new climate tax on America’s most economically-vulnerable citizens.”