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Global Warming Activity Goes Local

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  • npat1@juno.com
    From the NY Times, October 29, 2003 The Warming Is Global but the Legislating, in the U.S., Is All Local By JENNIFER 8. LEE WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 — Motivated
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2003
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      From the NY Times, October 29, 2003
      The Warming Is Global but the Legislating, in the U.S., Is All Local
      By JENNIFER 8. LEE

      WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 � Motivated by environmental and economic concerns,
      states have become the driving force in efforts to combat global warming
      even as mandatory programs on the federal level have largely stalled.

      At least half of the states are addressing global warming, whether
      through legislation, lawsuits against the Bush administration or programs
      initiated by governors.

      In the last three years, state legislatures have passed at least 29
      bills, usually with bipartisan support. The most contentious is
      California's 2002 law to set strict limits for new cars on emissions of
      carbon dioxide, the gas that scientists say has the greatest role in
      global warming.

      While few of the state laws will have as much impact as California's,
      they are not merely symbolic. In addition to caps on emissions of gases
      like carbon dioxide that can cause the atmosphere to heat up like a
      greenhouse, they include registries to track such
      emissions, efforts to diversify fuel sources and the use of crops to
      capture carbon dioxide by taking it out of the atmosphere and into the
      ground.

      Aside from their practical effects, supporters say, these efforts will
      put pressure on Congress and the administration to enact federal
      legislation, if only to bring order to a patchwork of state laws.

      States are moving ahead in large part to fill the vacuum that has been
      left by the federal government, said David Danner, the energy adviser for
      Gov. Gary Locke of Washington.

      "We hope to see the problem addressed at the federal level," Mr. Danner
      said, "but we're not waiting around."

      There are some initiatives in Congress, but for the moment even their
      backers acknowledge that they are doomed, given strong opposition from
      industry, the Bush administration � which favors voluntary controls � and
      most Congressional Republicans.

      This week, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a proposal to create a
      national regulatory structure for carbon dioxide. This would be the first
      vote for either house on a measure to restrict the gas.

      The proposal's primary sponsors, Senator John McCain, Republican of
      Arizona, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, see it
      mainly as a way to force senators to take a position on the issue, given
      the measure's slim prospects.

      States are acting partly because of predictions that global warming could
      damage local economies by harming agriculture, eroding shorelines and
      hurting tourism.

      "We're already seeing things which may be linked to global warming here
      in the state," Mr. Danner said. "We have low snowpack, increased forest
      fire danger."

      Environmental groups and officials in state governments say that energy
      initiatives are easier to move forward on the local level because they
      span constituencies � industrial and service sectors, Democrat and
      Republican, urban and rural.

      While the coal, oil and automobile industries have big lobbies in
      Washington, the industry presence is diluted on the state level.
      Environmental groups say this was crucial to winning a legislative battle
      over automobile emissions in California, where the automobile industry
      did not have a long history of large campaign donations and
      instead had to rely on a six-month advertising campaign to make its case.

      Local businesses are also interested in policy decisions because of
      concerns about long-term energy costs, said Christopher James, director
      of air planning and standards for the Connecticut Department of
      Environmental Protection. As a result, environmental
      groups are shifting their efforts to focus outside Washington.

      Five years ago the assumption was that the climate treaty known as the
      Kyoto Protocol was the only effort in town, said Rhys Roth, the executive
      director of Climate Solutions, which works on global warming issues in
      the Pacific Northwest states. But since President Bush rejected the Kyoto
      pact in 2001, local groups have been
      emerging on the regional, state and municipal levels.

      The Climate Action Network, a worldwide conglomeration of nongovernment
      organizations working on global warming, doubled its membership of state
      and local groups in the last two years.

      The burst of activity is not limited to the states with a traditional
      environmental bent.

      At least 15 states, including Texas and Nevada, are forcing their state
      electric utilities to diversify beyond coal and oil to energy sources
      like wind and solar power.

      Even rural states are linking their agricultural practices to global
      warming. Nebraska, Oklahoma and Wyoming have all passed initiatives in
      anticipation of future greenhouse-gas emission trading, hoping they can
      capitalize on their forests and crops to capture carbon dioxide during
      photosynthesis.

      Cities are also adopting new energy policies. San Franciscans approved a
      $100 million bond initiative in 2001 to pay for solar panels for
      municipal buildings, including the San Francisco convention center.

      The rising level of state activity is causing concern among those who
      oppose carbon dioxide regulation.

      "I believe the states are being used to force a federal mandate," said
      Sandy Liddy Bourne, who does research on global warming for the American
      Legislative Exchange Council, a group contending that carbon dioxide
      should not be regulated because it is not a pollutant. "Rarely do you see
      so many bills in one subject area introduced across the country."

      The council started tracking state legislation, which they call
      son-of-Kyoto bills, weekly after they noticed a significant rise in
      greenhouse-gas-related legislation two years ago. This year, the council
      says, 24 states have introduced 90 bills that would build
      frameworks for regulating carbon dioxide. Sixty-six such bills were
      introduced in all of 2001 and 2002.

      Some of the activity has graduated to a regional level. Last summer, Gov.
      George E. Pataki of New York invited 10 Northeastern states to set up a
      regional trading network where power plants could buy and sell carbon
      dioxide credits in an effort to lower overall emissions. In 2001, six New
      England states entered into an agreement with Canadian provinces to cap
      overall emissions by 2010. Last month, California, Washington and Oregon
      announced that they would start looking at shared strategies to address
      global warming.

      To be sure, some states have decided not to embrace policies to combat
      global warming. Six � Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, West
      Virginia and Wyoming � have explicitly passed laws against any mandatory
      reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

      "My concern," said Ms. Bourne, "is that members of industry and
      environment groups will go to the federal government to say: `There is a
      patchwork quilt of greenhouse-gas regulations across the country. We
      cannot deal with the 50 monkeys. We must have one 800-pound gorilla.
      Please give us a federal mandate.' " Indeed, some environmentalists say
      this is precisely their strategy.

      States developed their own air toxics pollution programs in the 1980's,
      which resulted in different regulations and standards across the country.
      Industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, eventually
      lobbied Congress for federal standards, which
      were incorporated into the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments.

      A number of states are trying to compel the federal government to move
      sooner rather than later. On Thursday, 12 states, including New York,
      with its Republican governor, and three cities sued the Environmental
      Protection Agency for its recent decision not to
      regulate greenhouse-gas pollutants under the Clean Air Act, a reversal of
      the agency's previous stance under the Clinton administration.

      "Global warming cannot be solely addressed at the state level," said Tom
      Reilly, the Massachusetts attorney general. "It's a problem that requires
      a federal approach."



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