WCI Shows More Signs of Unraveling

88367460On Ground Hog Day, Arizona saw the shadow of regional carbon trading looming over it…and retreated.

In an executive order issued on February second but not widely reported until yesterday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer rejected the regional cap-and-trade program known as the Western Climate Initiative (WCI).

In April of last year, Climate Watch first called attention to the apparent lack of momentum within the WCI, an agreement among 11 US states and Canadian provinces, in which Arizona was a founding partner.

In her order, Governor Brewer wrote that imposing cap-and-trade at this time would “cost investment and jobs in Arizona” and put the state at a “competitive disadvantage,” as industry would be forced to pay fees for their carbon emissions.

Arizona relies on coal for about a third of its electricity production (36% as of 2007, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s tally) and its renewable energy goals (15% by 2025) are less ambitious than California’s (30% by 2020). But Arizona also has a larger nuclear power component. Governor Brewer cited this in last week’s executive order, as part of the reason why Arizona’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are “about one third less than the national average.” The Governor’s order affirms that Arizona seeks “pragmatic” approaches to climate change mitigation and implies that Arizona officials would rather wait and see what carbon regulation develops at the national level, than proceed with a regional plan.

The state’s move comes as several energy companies mount an eleventh-hour push for a national cap-and-trade program, which has languished in the Senate.

The WCI comprises both “partner” and “observer” states. The Brewer order says that Arizona will “continue to be a member of the WCI to ensure that Arizona’s unique perspective will be advanced,” but that the state will not implement regional cap and trade. As of this morning, Arizona was still listed on the WCI website as a “partner” and there was no mention of the action.

California officials have long said that while a regional carbon trading pact would be preferable, California could “go it alone” if necessary.