Forum focuses on Western tacks on climate change
DENVER ” Leaders from states that developed climate change policies and pushed renewable energy in the absence of a national plan want to be heard as a new federal administration takes the lead on the issue.
Speakers at a regional forum on climate change Thursday in Denver welcomed the Obama administration’s promotion of clean energy and focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter said that with the new direction in Washington, “the Earth has shifted under our feet.”
In a speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, Obama called on lawmakers to approve a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon dioxide emissions. Companies that couldn’t meet the limits would have to buy permits from those below the caps.
Ritter, a Democrat who took office in 2007, campaigned on building a “new energy economy” in Colorado by melding the state’s conventional natural resources ” oil, gas, coal ” with such renewable resources as wind and solar. He said the Bush administration’s interest in tackling climate change was low.
“Now we have an administration that really understands it, and I think understands it on a very profound level,” Ritter said.
Environment and health experts from the West said during the conference sponsored by The Climate Registry that they believe programs and plans they have developed lay a good foundation for a national approach. The registry’s board of directors has asked that any federal climate change programs recognize ongoing efforts by states and tribal governments.
The Los Angeles-based nonprofit registry was formed to set consistent standards for calculating, verifying and reporting greenhouse gas emissions. Members include 41 states, 12 Canadian provinces and territories, six Mexican states and four tribal governments.
Diane Wittenberg, the registry’s executive director, said the group is talking to the Obama administration about coordinating state and federal reporting of emissions responsible for the warming of the climate.
“We hope the federal government doesn’t reinvent the wheel. We don’t think they will,” Wittenberg said.
Linda Adams, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, was meeting this week with federal officials to look at California’s environmental priorities, said Cindy Tuck, the state’s environmental undersecretary. Tuck said California supports a strong national program with the ability of states to exceed federal standards.
Cathy Woollums, a senior vice president at Iowa-based MidAmerican Energy, said her company operates in 26 states and abroad and would welcome more uniformity in environmental regulations.
“We beg for federal legislation that would unify some of these principles,” Woollums said.
The past few years, Western states have passed laws requiring that a certain amount of the electricity sold in the states come from renewable energy sources. They have set goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Wyoming, the nation’s No. 1 coal producer, is working with General Electric Co. on research into cutting emissions from coal-powered plants. The state is developing wind power and mapping the best routes for new transmissions lines to carry more electricity from renewable energy.
Nevada, already a national leader in solar and geothermal energy, has plans to increase power from renewable sources, said Colleen Cripps, deputy administrator of Nevada Environmental Protection.
Arizona was an early member of The Climate Registry and the Western Climate Initiative, said Steve Owens, former director of the state Department of Environmental Quality. He said the near doubling of the state’s population over 20 years, boosting traffic and demand for electricity, sent greenhouse gas emissions “through the roof.”
Despite the recession and a tight credit market, speakers voiced optimism about so-called “green-collar” jobs being able to spark the economy. Ritter pointed to plans by Vestas Wind Systems, the Denmark-based wind turbine maker, to invest $680 million and employ as many as 2,450 people in the state by 2010.
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The Climate Registry: http://www.theclimateregistry.org/
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