Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Nine US states break with Bush on greenhouse gase

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nine northeastern U.S. states are working on a plan to cap and then reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the first U.S. deal of its kind and one which would see the region breaking with President George W. Bush who refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol

The move comes as California, Washington and Oregon are considering a similar pact -- a dynamic environmentalists say could pressure the federal government to adopt a national law. Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, the greenhouse gas reduction plan already adopted by over 150 countries.

Under the plan being worked on, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont would cap carbon dioxide emissions at 150 million tons a year -- roughly equal to the average emissions in the highest three years between 2000 and 2004.

Starting in 2015, the cap would be lowered, and emissions would be cut by 10 percent in 2020.

Each state legislature would have to approve the caps, said Dennis Schain, a spokesman for Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection.

"This is a process that would be an agreement among states and to really implement it and have a firm commitment, the states will each have to approve legislation and regulations to meet these conditions," he told Reuters.

The draft is being circulated among industries, power companies and environmental groups for feedback, he said. The group hopes to reach a final agreement in September.

Phil Cherry, policy director at Delaware's Department of Natural Resources, also confirmed details of the pact.

Scientists believe carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases cause global warming that is affecting coastal areas, icebergs and wildlife. Around 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from fossil fuel power plants.

The United States is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide. The Bush administration wants cuts to be voluntary and resists mandatory measures it says would hurt economic growth.

Many international leaders have criticized Bush's refusal to sign Kyoto, which is meant as a first step toward braking a rise in global temperatures from a build-up of gases from fossil fuels emitted by power plants, factories and cars.

In the absence of national control on emissions, Schain said: "This seems to be the appropriate course of action."

The so-called Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would explore a market-driven cap-and-trade system where businesses must trim emissions under set limits or buy credits from companies that have complied with the limits.

Environmentalists praised the proposed plan.

"It moves the United States further toward doing something about the problem," said Kert Davies of Greenpeace in Washington, D.C. "That eventually allows us back into the global solving of this problem."

The deal was brokered by New York Republican Gov. George Pataki, who is weighing a White House run in 2008.

Pataki spokesman Andrew Rush said no final deal had been reached but, "We've made a lot of progress and we look forward to reaching a final agreement."

Political experts note such a plan brings Pataki national attention. "This is another clear signal that George Pataki is positioning himself on the national stage to run for president," said political strategist Hank Sheinkopf.

A regional emissions control program would likely cause higher energy prices for power company customers in the Northeast, but Delaware's Cherry said the states had not yet decided on a method to combat rising costs.


At 7:33 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Great post. I heard something about it last night in a Union of Concerned Scientists Action Alert email, but am looking for more information.

Is there a press release or other outline of the RGGI plan available online?

Unfortunately this sort of initiative has been talked about a decent amount over the past few years, with only short news releases to show for it. (the US mayors conference of last year, where many big-city mayors from across the country vowed to adopt Kyoto-like measures comes to mind) I wonder if there's a comprehensive resource to track and promote this global warming action agenda.

At 1:54 AM, Blogger Cogito said...

It is likely to be too little and too late, but at least it is a step of sorts - more a reluctant shuffle I suspect. Until US politics is disengaged from big business, especially the oil industry, the current corrupt administration will be endlessly repeated.

This implies electoral reform in the US, of which I see little sign or prospect.

That leaves it down to us to think seriously about what each of us can do to reduce our own CO2 footprint, seek out biodiesel if available, buy electricity generated from renewable sources as available, and so on.


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