Governors from Five Western U.S. States Agree to Join Together to Lower Emissions

Governors from the states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington agreed Monday to work together to try to cap carbon dioxide emissions their states produce. The alliance is part of a plan to help curb global warning, by joining forces in the market-based emissions trading program within the next year and a half.

The agreement came just as TXU Corporation, the largest utility in Texas, was purchased by private investment firms calling for a national emissions cap and market program similar to what the governors signed.

Many environmentalists, wishing for more government control, do not like market-based approaches to curbing emissions. But Environment California, the National Wildlife Federation and others praised the agreement, which was initiated by Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar, who has been criticized by Democrats in his state for pushing for market-based programs, called the agreement “a very important step. This is a partnership, just like we have with the Northeastern states, just like we have with England.”

And New Mexico Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson said individual states were “not waiting for the Congress or the Bush administration or the federal government.”

Many details still need to be worked out, such as how aggressive to be with the initial emissions cap and which companies would be required to meet the new standards, but electric utilities, responsible for 40 percent of all carbon emissions in the United States, would certainly be in that group.

“We think the approach recommended by the governors today makes a lot more sense than a state-by-state approach,” said Mark Fryberg, a spokesman for the Portland General Electric Company. “However we still prefer a national cap and trade system as the most efficient way to approach this issue.”

His sentiment has recently been echoed by other large utilities, who say they would prefer a nation solution so as to avoid what they refer to as a patchwork of overlapping requirements.

Under the cap and trade system proposed by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, reduced emission targets will need to be met. But major polluters may pay other companies to reduce their emissions, so that the overall pollution levels always meet the cap.

This agreement comes at a time when scientist and interest groups are debating how best to curb emissions. James Hansen, the climate scientist from NASA, said the U.S.A. should halt construction of new coal-burning power plants and that older utilities “must eventually be bulldozed.”