On the eve of Earth Day and just days before the expected unveiling of a new energy and climate bill in the U.S. Senate, state officials, legal experts, and environmental groups called on the U.S. Senate to uphold the historic role that states have played in protecting the environment. Despite the environmental victories won by states in recent decades, there is a push by some industries and their allies in the Senate to block states from adopting their own programs to cut global warming pollution if a federal climate bill is passed.
“Given the vital role that states have played in moving our nation forward to reduce pollution and shift to clean energy, blocking states’ ability to innovate is like killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” said Rob Sargent, Energy Program Director for Environment America. “Global warming presents an historic challenge that will require us to use every tool in the tool box—especially state leadership and innovation.”
On a conference call held this morning, state officials from Maine, Illinois, and California touted the steps their states and others have made in cutting global warming pollution and promoting clean energy—and how their actions have benefitted their states and helped shape national programs. For instance, the new federal clean cars program, which will save more than 11 billion gallons of gasoline per year by 2016, was based on a program first adopted by California and 13 other states.
“The history of successful environmental change is one of state and federal collaboration,” said Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott. “To have a robust federal climate policy, we will need the involvement of the states in the vast number of areas where they are responsible for policy, including transportation, land use planning, and building codes to name just a few.”
“Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states have raised $582 million in 18 months through a very efficient allowance auction system—and for that reason an auction mechanism is now being incorporated in federal proposals because 10 states demonstrated auctions work well and efficiently. Roughly 60 percent of these funds are going to make our businesses more competitive and reduce household expenditures on energy—again the states have shown this can work and work well, saving at least $3 for every $1 invested,” said Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner David Littell. “We look forward to continuing these and other successful programs in partnership with the federal government under new federal climate change legislation.”
“Preserving state roles not only allows for greater innovation but also provides key backstop authority in the event the federal policy does not achieve our environmental goals or gets delayed through actions of a future Congress, White House, or through endless litigation,” said Vicky Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. “The states buttress a federal program, providing certainty for those investing in efficiency and renewable energy.”
Seven state attorneys general, 14 state environmental agency heads and 14 U.S. senators recently sent letters to the emerging energy and climate bill’s authors—Senators John Kerry (MA), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Joe Lieberman (CT)—urging these senators to protect the ability of states to continue in their leadership roles on clean energy and global warming.
A recent Environment America report found that the impact of state-level actions to reduce global warming pollution is significant on a global scale. A review of dozens of individual state policies, federal policies based on state models, and new federal policies in which states will have key roles in implementation suggests that state actions will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 536 million metric tons by 2020. This is more global warming pollution than is currently emitted by all but eight of the world’s nations, and represents approximately 7 percent of U.S. global warming pollution in 2007.
But despite these victories and the enormous challenge posed by global warming, some in Washington continue to say that blocking states’ ability to enact their own programs to cut global warming pollution is a necessary trade-off for passage of a federal climate bill.
“It would be sadly ironic for the U.S. Senate to mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by giving up one of the tools that has secured many of our environmental victories over the past 40 years,” said Sargent. “Rather than stifling innovation by the states, Washington should let states continue to develop the clean energy and global warming policies of tomorrow.”