August 24, 2005

Nine US states break with Bush on greenhouse gases

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.