"Governors Races: Losing The Western Climate Initiative"
This is the last of a four-part Wonk Room series examining the implications for climate and clean energy policy of the 2010 gubernatorial races. Read Part One, on heartland states, Part Two, on Tea Party candidates, Part Three, on Northeast races, or view the full governor-race compilation.
The Western Climate Initiative — a regional cap-and-trade compact between California, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Montana and four Canadian provinces — was established in 2007 and scheduled to go into effect in 2012. There are governors’ races in all the states except Montana and Washington. Republican governors in Arizona and Utah — who are cruising to re-election this fall — have already worked to scuttle their involvement. California’s contribution, the legislation known as AB 32, is under threat both from the Proposition 23 ballot initiative and from Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. The future of the compact rides on the governors’ races this November in California, New Mexico, and Oregon:
538 forecast: 4 percent Democratic pickup
Jan Brewer, who assumed the governorship when Democrat Janet Napolitano was chosen as Secreatary of Health and Human Services, officially recognizes the threat of global warming pollution but has pulled Arizona out of any effort to cap its pollution. In her executive order in February 2010 that announced Arizona would not participate in the Western Climate Initiative’s regional cap-and-trade program, Brewer admitted:
Arizona is a growing state whose greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been projected to rise, based on historical trends, as Arizona will experience population and economic growth in the future. [Executive Order 2010-06, 2/2/10]
The executive order also ordered the state to “review its adoption of the California Clean Cars Program, in light of national vehicle standards coming into place.” However, Brewer still wants the state to participate in the regional compact to “have a seat at the table” on climate issues.
Brewer’s opponent, Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard, is much more concerned about the threat global warming poses to Arizona. Responding to the Supreme Court’s decision compelling the EPA to act on global warming pollution and the 2007 IPPC climate report, Goddard wrote that “it is abundantly clear that if more steps are not taken soon to respond to global climate change, Arizona will be among the places paying the biggest price.” In 2009, Goddard defended “the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to grant states the right to regulate global warming pollution from automobiles.”
The Calfornia governor’s races is pivotal for America’s clean energy future. California is already the national leader in greenhouse pollution standards for cars and trucks — its fuel economy standards have been adopted by states across the nation and were the basis of the Supreme Court decision that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant. Billionaire Republican candidate Meg Whitman has vowed to stop the implementation of California’s landmark green economy legislation, AB 32:
“Right now, the clock is ticking as new job-killing regulations will go into effect in 2010.”
In contrast, Whitman’s opponent, Attorney General Jerry Brown, has long been a champion of AB 32. In 2007, he called the legislation a “no-brainer“:
You’ve got your road map, you have your threat, and you have the carrot of all the good things that you will achieve and all the bad things you will avoid. So, to summarize, this is a no-brainer. Let’s get working, and let’s reduce oil dependency and fight global climate change.
Out-of-state oil companies — Valero, Tesoro, and Koch Industries — are pouring millions into the Proposition 23 campaign to indefinitely suspend AB 32, supported by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity tea party network. Their efforts seems to be backfiring, as California’s clean-energy businesses and investors have combined forces with environmentalists and progressives to fight back.
In 2007, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) strengthened the state renewable energy standard and signed an agreement with six other states — California, Utah, Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Montana — and four Canadian provinces — to form the Western Climate Initiative, a regional cap-and-trade system to go into effect by 2012. However, the future of the initiative is in peril, no matter which candidate wins.
Susana Martinez, the Sarah Palin-endorsed nominee for New Mexico governor, questions the overwhelming scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is warming the planet. “I’m not sure the science completely supports that,” she recently told Politico. Responding to the New Mexico Independent, she revealed that she thinks the science of climate change is an “ideological debate“:
While there is disagreement in the science community concerning the causes of global warming, there is little disagreement concerning our responsibility to take care of the environment while creating jobs in New Mexico. Politicians engaging in an ideological debate over the causes of global warming does nothing to protect the environment, or create jobs. As governor, I will support balanced and evidenced-based environmental protections.
Martinez also strongly opposes the Western Climate Initiative, saying it “would impose a new energy tax on businesses and families in New Mexico,” making the state “anti-business.”
Although Lt. Gov Diane Denish is “proud that New Mexico is a national leader in the battle against climate change,” she also strongly opposes a “New Mexico-specific cap-and-trade plan,” saying “new regulation would put New Mexico at an economic disadvantage and put countless jobs in our state at risk.” Unlike Martinez, however, Denish has a comprehensive economic plan for promoting clean energy investment.
Oregon has a strong 25-by-25 renewable energy standard, signed in 2007 by Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D-OR). In 2009, Kulongoski “signed several climate change, renewable energy, and energy efficiency bills that expand emission performance standards and greenhouse gas reporting requirements, promote renewable energy, and mandate greater energy efficiency.”
Republican candidate Chris Dudley just wants to ignore global warming pollution. “Climate change is probably caused by a variety of factors,” Dudley said in a September interview with the Oregonian, “but that debate is beside the point.” In a gubernatorial debate on September 30, Dudley finally came out as a cautious global warming denier:
My thought on global warming is this: that global warming exists, man contributes to it, how much, I don’t know. I don’t know how much is man made and how much is natural. [Oregonian, 9/30/10]
Toeing the party line, Dudley opposes the Western Climate Initiative, attacking “state or regional ‘cap-tax-trade‘ systems which would increase the cost of energy for consumers, make Oregon less economically competitive and do damage to the economy and job creation.” He even bashed a weatherization initiative as a boondoggle.
In contrast, former Democratic governor John Kitzhaber is clear: “I do believe climate change is human-caused, and it poses an enormous threat to our country and to our nation.” While Dudley has been silent, Kitzhaber has issued a strategic roadmap for green economic empowerment in Oregon.
Republican Gary Herbert is a global warming denier:
I’ve heard people argue on both sides of the issue, people I have a high regard for. People say man’s impact is minimal, if at all, so it appears to me the science is not necessarily conclusive. [Deseret News, 6/16/09]
Herbert became governor when Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., was named ambassador to China in 2009. A 10-year state energy plan laid out by Herbert in June “opens the door to nuclear power but does not set mandates or specific targets regarding clean energy.”
Salt Lake City mayor Peter Corroon’s plans for “more solar, wind and geothermal jobs” include “rewarding Utah companies for using renewable energy resources, possibly through a tax credit, and returning to Huntsman’s goal of requiring 25 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2025.”