State senators took the first steps Wednesday to block Gov. Janet Napolitano from mandating reduced greenhouse gas emissions in Arizona and imposing new standards on the vehicles that can be sold here.
Legislation approved unanimously by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Rural Affairs would specifically ban any state agency from adopting or enforcing any rules dealing with the emission of greenhouse gases. The only way they could act, absent legislative permission, would be only if a program is expressly authorized by federal law, and only if the requirements are no more stringent than the federal government allows.
The move comes as the state Department of Environmental Quality, at Napolitano's direction, crafted rules requiring that each automobile manufacturer reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from its total sales in the state by 37 percent by 2016. Those standards, which mirror those adopted by the California Air Resources Board, could increase the cost of vehicles by $1,000.
But those regulations could be just the beginning: Napolitano has also directed DEQ to work with officials from seven other Western states and two Canadian provinces to set up a "cap and trade" system that would reduce overall industrial greenhouse gas emissions.
Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said having Arizona act on its own - or even with some other states and provinces - could result in businesses deciding not to locate or expand here. And he said that would just make the state's current economic crisis even worse.
The vote on HB2017 came over the objections of Patrick Cunningham, deputy director of DEQ. He said any move to block the regulations is "premature" because nothing has been decided.
He acknowledged, though, DEQ has finished its rule on vehicle emissions and held the legally required single public hearing. The only thing left is review next month by the Governor's Regulatory Review Council which consists of people picked by Napolitano.
He insisted the Legislature has, in fact, authorized the emission regulations, citing laws giving his agency the power to regulate "air contaminants" from vehicles. And he said the U.S. Supreme Court has concluded carbon dioxide fits that definition.