The economy is quickly becoming everyone’s favorite excuse for not regulating carbon emissions.
First, California started hemming and hawing about implementing , a statewide law that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions, citing concerns that any additional regulations on businesses could crush those that are barely hanging on in the down economy.
Now, Arizona has pulled out of the Western Climate Initiative's cap-and-trade program, and Utah may follow suit.
The includes seven western states and four Canadian provinces that agreed to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and participate in a regional cap-and-trade program that would launch in 2012 and be fully implemented by 2015.
The former governors of Arizona and Utah, Democrat Janet Napolitano and Republican Jon Huntsman, Jr., had signed on to the WCI, but both were appointed to higher office by President Obama last year, Napolitano as secretary of Homeland Security and Huntsman as ambassador to China. Their successors in the two states are now second-guessing their decisions.
In an last week, Arizona’s new governor, Republican Jan Brewer, announced that Arizona would not implement the cap-and-trade proposal advanced by the WCI, though it would remain part of the group. Her argument: Implementing cap-and-trade at this point would put her state at a competitive disadvantage nationally and internationally and hurt its economy.
Utah legislators are urging their new governor, Republican Gary Herbert, to drop out of the WCI entirely. They, too, cite economic concerns, as well as general doubts about the existence of climate change (the sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Mike Noel, believes climate-change policies are a conspiracy to control world population). The Utah House's Public Utilities and Technology Committee this morning passed his , which now goes to the full House, where it is expected to pass.
But while some state officials are talking about climate science as a controversy to stir up their constituents, the real reasons may have more to do with what’s happening in the federal government.
In her executive order, Brewer cited the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases and potential federal regulations governing GHG emissions as additional reasons to pull out of the WCI.
Interestingly, Arizona plans to continue its involvement in the , which Brewer says will help the state “further cooperation with its important neighbor on developing a regional inventory of GHG emissions and identifying emissions reduction and energy efficiency opportunities.”
The governor is also intent on supporting the state’s growing renewable energy economy. In her executive order, she writes:
“Together with Arizona citizens, businesses and communities, we strive for pragmatic, pro-active approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation by advancing clean and renewable energy, including solar power, nuclear energy, smart growth, fuel efficient transportation and energy efficiency polices and practices that make sense for Arizona.”
Given that renewable energy and clean technology have become an important part of Arizona’s economy, it’s not likely that the state will move away from renewable energy.