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Friday, February 23, 2007

State Solutions for Global Warming?

Via Gristmill, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network is making a huge push for Maryland to pass a bill to reduce the state's total greenhouse gas output this year, citing a change in the "political climate." (Ha ha.) This is good news, undoubtedly, but it's important to keep a few things in mind:
  1. There may be significant legal constraints on the ability of states to reduce emissions. As with the Clean Cars bill currently making its way through the General Assembly, a lot hinges on the outcome of the Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA, which will determine whether the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. If the EPA can't, it's pretty likely the states can't either, as the Clean Air Act preempts state regulations. However, even if the Court says it can, states (California in particular) still need to obtain a waiver from the EPA to adopt air pollution standards that differ from the federal standards, something that Bush's EPA has not shown much willingness to do.
  2. The method by which CCAN wants to reduce emissions -- cap-and-trade -- is not without its own problems, compared to, say, a direct tax on CO2. Basically, it can be easy for businesses to manipulate a cap-and-trade system so that they don't actually have to reduce their emissions, which would defeat the whole purpose of the scheme. For more info, see these posts on Gristmill -- which is not only one of the best environmental blogs out there, it's one of the best blogs, period.
  3. Let's also remember that Maryland is set to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative this year, which also aims to reduce CO2 emissions through a cap-and-trade system. Moreover, the goal of RGGI is to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, just like CCAN's plan. Of course, it's not clear whether RGGI requires emissions reductions to each state's 1990 levels or just that of the entire Northeast. If it's the latter, then I can see the usefulness of CCAN's plan. Otherwise, wouldn't it be redundant?

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