Tuesday, February 26, 2008

House White Paper On Various Government Roles In Climate Change

Feb 25: House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Chaired by Representative John Dingell (D-MI) and its Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, Chaired by Rick Boucher (D-VA) are continuing their strategy of issuing Legislation Design White Papers as the next step toward enactment of a mandatory, economy-wide climate change program. The latest White Paper entitled, Appropriate Roles for Different Levels of Government, is intended to foster discussion of these issues by raising key factors that should be considered in determining what roles are appropriate for each level of government.

The previous White Paper released on January 31, 2008, Competitiveness Concerns and Prospects for Engaging Developing Countries [
See WIMS 2/4/08], will be the subject of a hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality on February 28, at 1:00 PM. The paper discusses potential domestic legislative provisions that could encourage developing countries to curb their emissions of greenhouse gases.

The latest White Paper indicates that, "The country is now at the difficult and familiar stage of transitioning from multiple, often unconnected, State and local climate change programs to a comprehensive, national approach to addressing the global problem of climate change. For a variety of reasons, State and local environmental programs have often led to enactment of Federal environmental legislation. Industry is often interested in Federal legislation to avoid or replace a patchwork of State regulations, which helps reduce the burden on companies involved in interstate commerce. . . Federal programs can also provide resources for environmental protection where State and local programs are insufficient. . . Addressing climate change will require employing a variety of tools. The primary tool at the Federal level will be a national, economy-wide cap-and-trade program that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2050. . .

"A comprehensive, national approach to climate change will require a melding of different governmental roles and tools. Given the breadth of actions that will be necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate change, Federal, State, Tribal, and local governments will need to play a variety of roles.

"This White Paper is intended to explore the key factors that the Committee will need to consider and balance as it constructs a national greenhouse gas control program and seeks to rationalize the roles of different levels of government. These factors include: the global effect of greenhouse gas emissions; the effect on the level and cost of national greenhouse gas reductions; the efficient use of government and societal resources; the benefit of States, Tribes, and localities as laboratories; differing local circumstances; the burden on interstate Commerce; imposition of costs on other States; and stakeholder needs."

Steve Cochran, national climate campaign director at Environmental Defense issued a statement on the White Paper saying, “Though we strongly disagree with some of its conclusions, this paper could be an important examination of the state-federal issues facing the committee as it crafts legislation. In the absence of a federal legislative proposal, however, it remains, at best, largely an academic exercise. The sooner we have a bill, the sooner we can have a constructive debate. We’re pleased that the paper, in some ways, recognizes the important role of states, because state leadership has provided the only concrete steps toward solving the climate problem so far. But we’re disappointed that it raises questions about their future role, particularly without pointing to any concrete federal policy. Suggesting that states should never move beyond federal policy when it comes to tailpipe emissions ignores a long pattern of success under the Clean Air Act, and could be a recipe for failure on this most urgent of issues."

Access the latest 25-page Levels of Government White Paper (
click here). Access the previous 16-page White Paper on Developing Countries (click here). Access links to all previous White Papers, letters, hearings, etc regarding the Committee activity on climate change (click here). Access a release from Environmental Defense (click here). [*Climate]