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California Tightens Rules on Emissions
Corporate opponents in California, moreover, have not given up their fight, saying the legislation could cripple their industries and raise electricity prices. Jack Stewart, president of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, said industry is already taking steps to improve energy efficiency, and mandates will only increase the cost of doing business.
"The economic graveyards of California are littered with the jobs that are the unintended consequences of good intentions by legislators and governors," said Stewart, adding that manufacturers and utilities have not ruled out legal action to try to block the measure.
In Washington, utilities lobbyist Scott Segal sounded a similar note, saying the measure would raise electricity prices and hurt the most vulnerable consumers: "When power shortages occur and rates go up, the people who are hurt the most are the ones least able to afford it."
Bush's top environmental adviser, James L. Connaughton, said in a statement that the administration welcomes "effective state action to complement over 60 regulatory, incentive, and voluntary federal programs working to achieve the president's goal of reducing national greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by 2012," but that it remains concerned about "any program that moves jobs and increases emissions in other states or other countries -- an open question for California's proposed legislation."
Still, state and local politicians across the country are pressing ahead with rules aimed at cutting emissions. Two weeks ago, seven Northeastern states approved a mandatory limit on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants, with a goal of stabilizing emissions by 2009 and reducing them by 10 percent over 10 years. Maryland has plans to adopt similar standards.
In Utah this week, Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. established an advisory panel composed of environmental activists and utilities executives to review the science on climate change and propose ways the state can curb its effects.
James D. Marston, director of state global-warming initiatives for the advocacy group Environmental Defense, said states are taking the initiative because the administration and Congress have refused to act. "It's harder for us to turn the boat around now because we've had several years of making dirtier energy investments instead of cleaner energy investments," Marston said.
In California, Republicans and Democrats have a political incentive to take bolder action on climate change. With carbon dioxide pollution rivaling Australia's, the state is the 12th-largest emitter in the world. A July poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that nearly two-thirds of Californians, including a large majority of Republicans and independents, wanted state legislators to address the issue.
"Because of the support in the state for doing something on global warming, both Democrats and Republicans have been trying to get out front of each other," said Mark Baldassare, director of research at the policy institute.
Some California companies broke with industry leaders, concluding that mandatory greenhouse gas reductions are smart politics and will be good for business. Pacific Gas and Electric chief executive Peter A. Darbee, whose company serves 15 million customers and ranks as California's largest utility, issued a statement last night saying, "We're supporting this legislation because we are convinced that climate change is an urgent problem and action is needed now."
"This is a bill that is really rolling down the tracks," said PG&E's vice president for government relations, Nancy E. McFadden, shortly before the state Senate vote Wednesday. "We made the judgment that we're going to be constructive and make it a bill that would protect both the environment and the economy."