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DEQ is working on a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Idaho

 The Boise River while the sun is shining. There are trees lining the sides of the river and you can see more trees in the background.
Murphy Woodhouse
Mountain West News Bureau

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is developing a new plan to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions.

DEQ was awarded a $3 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Pollution Reduction Program for the planning phase. Four states rejected the money, which comes from the Inflation Reduction Act.

The EPA's goal is for states to create "ambitious" plans to curtail emissions and combat air pollution.

DEQ is calling the project the "Gem State Air Quality Initiative." First, in collaboration with the University of Idaho's McClure Center for Public Policy Research, the agency will identify its priority areas for slashing emissions. Then, the state, cities or Tribes can seek EPA funding for projects that align with these priority areas.

By mid-2025, Idaho needs to submit a more comprehensive climate action plan.

Unlike many Western states, Idaho does not have state-issued climate goals. But, the EPA requires that the comprehensive plans include greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The undertaking will also include a detailed account of Idaho's emissions sources. The state has not conducted such an assessment since 2010, said Mary Anderson, the air quality planning bureau chief for DEQ. However, the EPA keeps some high-level state data.

Based on that information, DEQ said, Idaho's total carbon footprint is much smaller than many other states, particularly because of the reliance on hydropower versus fossil fuels. Still, emissions in Idaho have risen over the past three decades along with population growth.

In 2021, agriculture contributed 43% of the state's greenhouse gas emissions and transportation accounted for 29%, according to the EPA.

To craft the priority plan required by the EPA by March, DEQ sought public input during a brief window this fall.

"Idaho is focused on identifying those measures that communities already would like to do, that have a secondary benefit of greenhouse gas emission reductions," Anderson said.

The agency is currently reviewing over 200 responses from cities, counties and Tribes about how they want to voluntarily invest in climate solutions. Popular submissions include carbon sequestration on Idaho's farms and forests, urban tree planting, energy efficiency in buildings and cleaner power generation from sources like geothermal.

DEQ may share a summary of its priority areas based on these responses in January.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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