Concerned about being bypassed, state lawmakers are moving to strip Gov. Jan Brewer and her agencies of the power to impose new greenhouse gas pollution rules on Arizona residents and businesses.
But the plan could get an icy reception from Brewer.
Legislation set for debate Tuesday would prohibit the state Department of Environmental Quality from participating in the Western Climate Initiative. Former Gov. Janet Napolitano by executive action in 2007 put Arizona into the pact, which now involves seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.
The goal of the pact is to come up with a regional approach to reducing carbon dioxide and other gases that have been linked to global climate change.
DEQ already has adopted rules setting tailpipe emission standards for cars and trucks to be sold in Arizona. Those rules have yet to take effect.
And the state, following WCI guidelines, is proposing an even broader cap-and-trade system that would limit greenhouse gases from industrial sources.
Lawmakers voted last year to bar any greenhouse gas regulations without their approval only to have the bill vetoed by Napolitano. But she resigned in January to join the Obama administration, leaving Republican Brewer in charge.
And Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, sees this as the perfect opportunity to undo what Napolitano started and withdraw Arizona from WCI.
Biggs said the organization essentially is operating like a government, setting up policies and procedures for participating states and provinces to follow. But he said that “stakeholders,” including affected businesses, are essentially locked out of the discussions where the decisions are made.
What’s worse, said Biggs, is he fears any regulations adopted by WCI will become models for what the Obama administration adopts. “I’ve even read articles that the United Nations, if they could impose international (greenhouse gas regulations), what they’d like to do.”
Biggs may find that Brewer has different ideas.
The governor could undo what Napolitano did with a simple order of her own. But Brewer, who has been in office since Jan. 20, has not done that.
“As of today, the governor has not decided to withdraw from the WCI,” said press aide Kim Sabow. Instead, Sabow said, Brewer wants to “hear what the WCI proposed.”
What that means, Sabow said, is Brewer will keep Arizona a part of the regional pact if she agrees with how the other states and provinces want to reduce greenhouse gases. And she said Brewer has not yet made a decision whether to direct DEQ to repeal those vehicle emission standards.
Those rules do not ban the sale of any particular type of vehicle now sold in Arizona. Instead, they set standards for how much more each manufacturer’s “fleet” of vehicles sold in the state must reduce carbon dioxide from current levels.
There also is a mandate that, beginning in 2012, 10 percent of all vehicles sold in Arizona must have no emissions at all, whether they are powered by electricity, hydrogen or some other source.
More controversial has been the cap-and-trade proposal DEQ has been crafting.
Each company would be limited in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in 2012 and then given a schedule for reduction. Those that could not meet the new goals could purchase credits from firms that exceed those goals.
Several utility executives said that could prove costly in Arizona, where much of the electricity generated here comes from power plants fueled by coal or natural gas.
Sabow also said there’s another reason Brewer is not ready to make a decision yet, one way or the other, on Arizona’s link to the WCI: The entire fight could become legally meaningless. If the Obama administration proposes its own greenhouse gas limits, that would override anything done regionally.
In Utah last week the state House of Representatives voted 51-19 to ask Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to withdraw from WCI. That vote, however, is not binding.