May 22, 2007
Utah Joins Pact to Reduce Gas Emissions
SALT LAKE CITY - Utah joined five other states and British Columbia on Monday in a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, although details on how they will do it are incomplete.
Gov. Jon Huntsman signed the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative and joined other governors in criticizing the federal government for failing to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.
"We're leading the charge. We're not waiting for Washington anymore. I suspect that Congress and Washington will pay attention at some point," Huntsman said.
The compact sets goals for reducing emissions, participating in a multistate greenhouse-gas registry and providing market-based incentives for companies that comply.
The group - Utah, California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon and New Mexico - is expected to set benchmarks to reduce emissions by August. By August 2008, it wants to develop a system where companies in the region could trade emission credits.
Companies that can't meet their emission-reduction targets could buy credits from those that reduce carbon dioxide.
A market pact is close to becoming reality among a number of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, which plan to impose caps on power-plant emissions and encourage trading of allowances among utilities.
More than two dozen states have plans to combat warming in various forms, and many governors have agreed to seek renewable sources of energy.
The idea of a Western pact started with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who attended the signing ceremony Monday with Huntsman.
"The more states we bring in, the more we don't make it a political issue," Schwarzenegger said. "We don't have such a thing as Democratic air of Democratic water, or Republican air or Republican water.
"It is the people's air and the people's water," he said.
Huntsman joins Schwarzenegger as the second Republican governor to sign the compact. But it's unclear how much support there is in Utah's pro-business, Republican-controlled Legislature.
Lawmakers gather each January for 45 days, making 2009 the most likely year for legislation tied to the pact.
Carbon dioxide from coal, oil and other fossil fuels is the biggest of the greenhouse gases, so called because they create a heat-trapping blanket when released into the atmosphere.
Others are methane, nitrous oxide and synthetic gases. Scientists say the atmosphere holds more carbon dioxide now than it has for hundreds of thousands of years.
Most of Utah's electricity comes from burning coal. Schwarzenegger said the key is to find technology to make it burn cleaner.
"We can have a healthy environment and also a healthy economy," he said.
Western governors say global warming leads to more wildfires, greater droughts and less snow in ski-dependent tourist areas such as Park City.
"We in the West, the nation's most dynamic region, will suffer the most," Huntsman said. "Whatever we do today is certain to be our legacy for future generations."