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'Blue' States Tackling Energy On Their Own

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By Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 22, 2006

Democratic-leaning states increasingly are regulating energy use and emissions, working around a GOP-controlled federal government that state officials say has not done enough.

The states are creating energy efficiency requirements for light bulbs and household appliances, limiting power plant and automobile output linked to global warming, and requiring the use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

Leading the effort are "blue" states that voted Democratic in the 2004 presidential election. Even some of those states that have Republican governors, such as California and Connecticut, are making their own rules.

"In a way, the left is controlling that agenda," said Amy Myers Jaffe, associate director of the energy program at Rice University in Houston. "They're just implementing it at the community and state level."

Jaffe and other analysts said some of the policies would have to be adopted nationally to have a significant impact on the environment and energy consumption. But with other policies, such as the auto emissions limits, they said a sufficient number of big states are adopting regulations to make a significant difference nationally. "If all these giant-population states do this, does it matter that we don't have a national policy?" Jaffe asked.

Seven states that voted Democratic in 2004's presidential election have signed on to a regional plan to restrict power plant emissions. Eleven states that went Democratic have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, automobile tailpipe emissions requirements, which face a court challenge before they can be implemented. Nine of the 10 states that have adopted appliance efficiency regulations also voted Democratic.

Requirements that a portion of electricity come from renewable sources have caught on beyond the Democratic-leaning states. Seven states that went Republican in 2004 have joined 13 Democratic-leaning states and the District of Columbia in setting those rules.

Though the new regulations are not necessarily partisan, the activists behind them say their adoption requires lawmakers and constituents who are concerned about global warming and energy-conservation -- issues that Democrats often emphasize.

The Bush administration welcomes state efforts "as long as they do not put Americans out of jobs or move emissions from one state to another or one country to another," said Michele St. Martin, a spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

State officials say their constituents are demanding new limits on pollution and energy consumption. "What is frustrating is that these things aren't being done on a national basis," said Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci (D).

In some cases, states complain that the federal government has failed to take steps required by law.

The Energy Department has not decided if it should implement some new rules for appliance energy efficiency or update some old ones, for example, even though legal deadlines have passed for numerous appliances, such as home furnaces and boilers. The department says it is working on improving its performance.


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