US state, local officials warn Senate on climate bill

21 July 2009 22:15  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--State and local government officials on Tuesday warned the US Senate that a massive climate change bill pending in Congress would devastate oil, natural gas and coal energy resources and the chemicals sector.

State governors, city mayors and a state legislator generally told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that they support the concept of a federal programme to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

However, the state and local representatives either declined to endorse the climate change bill approved by the US House last month or condemned it.

The House bill, HR-2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES Act), would impose a cap-and-trade emissions mandate on US industry to force a reduction in the nation’s GHG outflow to 83% below 2005 levels by 2050.

Under the measure, the federal government would sell or give emissions permits to various industries, which could then trade those authorisations depending on individual plant’s pollution levels.

Critics of the legislation argue that it could cost US industry and consumers as much as $2,000bn (€1,400bn) without producing any measurable impact on the earth’s atmosphere.

North Dakota Governor John Hoeven told the committee that the House bill, also known as the Waxman-Markey measure after its two principal sponsors, “would penalise rather than reward technological advances” by companies in his state that have already reduced their emissions.

The House bill does not provide emissions credits for those utilities and manufacturers that have taken previous steps to reduce their carbon footprints.

Hoeven, a Republican, also argued that the technology for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) - considered crucial to meaningful reductions in GHG emissions - will not be ready in time to avoid wide-scale shutdown of coal-fired power plants.

“While there are projects underway to capture carbon, commercially deployable technology on a nation-wide scale is still years away,” Hoeven said.

“Instead of penalising companies, we need to foster the research needed to find more efficient ways to create, transport and store energy,” he said, adding: “The Waxman-Markey legislation is not the way to do it.”

New Jersey Governor John Corzine, a Democrat, avoided voicing support for the House bill in his prepared testimony, instead calling for a federally funded “Green Bank” to finance private sector research and development in domestic clean energy technologies.

“Current technologies do not provide us with the affordable, reliable and environmentally neutral technologies that our economy and environment needs,” Corzine said.

Testimony from Governors Christine Gregoire of Washington State and Bill Ritter of Colorado, both Democrats, also avoided voicing support for the House bill, although both highlighted efforts in their own states to reduce emissions.

Ritter hailed federal efforts to focus on renewable energy resources such as solar, wind and geothermal, but he emphasised that coal and natural gas - which Colorado has in abundance - must have a role in a new US energy economy.

Three municipal mayors also spoke in general support of a federal emissions policy but each emphasized that local governments will need massive federal financial support to implement such policies.

Arkansas State Representative John Lowery, a Democrat, warned that if the Senate passes a climate bill similar to the House measure, “it will devastate my region”.

“It will kill jobs, harm our school system, throw back our economic progress gained in the last few years, and impose a disproportionate burden on Arkansans,” he said of the Waxman-Markey bill.

“It might be popular for some in Washington to demonise oil and gas, fertilizer and chemical companies and farmers,” Lowery said, “but where I come from, they are an integral part of our communities.”

He said the energy costs imposed by the House bill “would shut them down”.

($1 = €0.70)

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By: Joe Kamalick
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