On Wednesday’s edition of The California Report, correspondent Tom Banse takes the pulse of a vital organ in California’s climate strategy; the regional carbon trading market. The upshot: Reports of its well-being may be greatly exaggerated.
Are they with us? It’s hard to tell looking at some of California’s supposed partners in the Western Climate Initiative.
WCI includes six states besides California and four Canadian provinces. Last year the group agreed on a regional “cap-and-trade” plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (and not coincidentally to show the federal government how it’s done). Governors and environmental agencies in the participating states continue to voice support for moving ahead with a regional initiative. The rub is that the executive branch cannot just snap its fingers and will the plan into being. A major policy change like this requires state legislatures to adopt the cap-and-trade rules. And some of those lawmakers definitely have other ideas.
Utah offers the most dramatic example. Before adjourning for the year, the state House of Representatives voted 52-19 in favor of a non-binding resolution directed at Utah Governor Jon Huntsman:
- “…WHEREAS, experts, including the Congressional Budget Office, warn against cap and trade policies, especially regional programs like the seven-member WCI;WHEREAS, experts also point out that the costs of such programming will be borne by consumers, placing a disproportionately high burden on poorer households; andWHEREAS, no state or nation has enhanced economic opportunities for its citizens or increased real GDP through cap and trade or other carbon reduction policies:NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the House of Representatives urges the Governor to withdraw Utah from the Western Climate Initiative.”
Huntsman, a Republican, is apparently ignoring the legislative shot across his bow.
Skepticism is also alive and well in the Arizona Legislature, where this preemptive strike skips the whereases and gets right to the job of handcuffing the executive branch.
- “The [Arizona Department of Environmental Quality] shall not participate in the Western climate initiative that is organized and operated by an affiliation of state governors and one or more provinces of Canada.”
The succinct bill has passed out of state House committee and awaits a floor vote.
Meanwhile in New Mexico, the legislature is done for the year. Legislation to authorize a greenhouse gas emissions cap was not even broached. Montana’s legislature is still in session, but all lawmakers in Helena have the stomach to tackle is preparatory measures. They would set up the regulatory framework for underground carbon storage (aka, sequestration) and require large companies to track and report their carbon emissions.
The governors of Oregon and Washington State served up the full climate enchilada to their legislatures this January only to see it picked apart.
That leaves California as the sole state in the Western Climate Initiative that has so far adopted cap-and-trade as the law of the land. California’s partners have consistently told us that a national program is the preferable way to regulate greenhouse gases. Now the “preferable” way is starting to look like the only way.