Western Cap-and-Trade Plan Taking Heat

Proponents of the Western Climate Initiative’s (WCI) climate action plan encountered some vocal critics on Tuesday as nineteen U.S. Senators and House members from 10 states challenged western governors to rethink the plan’s approach to cutting carbon emissions.

In a letter to the governors, members of the Congressional Western Caucus, including three from California, expressed particular concern about capping carbon during the most severe economic slump in the post-war period.

WCI is a cooperative plan by 11 western U.S. states and Canadian provinces to create a regional cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases.  Craig Miller reported on the plan in September for KQED’s The California Report.

The critics’ letter takes issue specifically with what it says are the WCI’s plans to rely on “renewable technologies and demand destruction” and to allow “for virtually no new baseload power plants deployed in the West through 2020 that are powered by natural gas, clean-coal-with-carbon-capture, renewable hydropower or nuclear energy”.  They say the region will lose billions of dollars in investments in green technology due to a plan that prevents new fossil-fuel power plants, even those with CO2 capture and sequestration technology.

At issue seems to be the WCI’s plan for the emissions caps, which are slated to be a “flat line” from either 2012 or 2015, depending on the source.  According to the WCI’s recommendations, the line would be set using “the best estimate of expected emissions for sources covered in the cap and trade program” in 2012.  Under this system, there would be very little room for increased emissions from any new power source covered by the program (i.e. electricity generation, combustion at industrial and commercial facilities,  and oil and gas processing).

The letter refers to a recent economic analysis commissioned by the Western Business Roundtable that found that the WCI would be expensive, cause job losses, and would not affect global climate.

California congressmen Dan Lungren, Elton Gallegly and George Radanovich were among the signers.