States lead charge against global warming |

States lead charge against global warming

April Reese/High Country News

From California to Colorado and from Washington to New Mexico, Western states, tired of federal inaction on climate change, are saddling up to tackle the issue on their own. Whether it means deciding that a certain percentage of their electrical power has to come from renewable sources, or crafting individual climate change “action plans,” many states are working to curb their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Western Governors Association is calling for its members to produce a total of 30,000 megawatts from new renewable energy sources by 2015. By 2020, it’s asking states to show a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency.

But despite these gestures, the West is still not presenting a unified front on the issue. Instead, it’s devised a patchwork of initiatives, with some states, such as Wyoming and Utah, opting not to take any statewide action, and others taking only baby steps. And even in states with ambitious goals, progress has been slow.

Here’s what Western states are doing to cool off:

Arizona: A renewable portfolio standard requires the state’s utilities to purchase 15 percent of Arizona’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025; an advisory group convened by Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, is working on a “climate change action plan,” due by June 2006, aimed at cutting emissions through improved efficiency and further development of renewables.

California: A renewable portfolio standard requires electricity retailers to purchase 20 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2017. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, issued an executive order calling for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to year 2000 levels by 2010, to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The Legislature adopted standards calling for tailpipe emissions from new vehicles to be reduced by 22 percent by the 2012 model year, and 30 percent by the 2016 model year.

Colorado: A voter-mandated renewable portfolio standard will force the state’s largest utilities to obtain 3 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2007, and 10 percent by 2015.

Idaho: Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a Republican, issued an executive order requiring much of the state’s vehicle fleet to run on alternative fuels, such as ethanol.

Montana: A renewable portfolio standard mandates that 10 percent of the electricity sold in Montana will have to come from renewable sources by 2010, and 15 percent by 2015.

Nevada: A renewable portfolio standard requires that 20 percent of all electricity generated in Nevada be derived from renewable sources by 2015.

New Mexico: A renewable portfolio standard will force investor-owned electric utilities to provide 5 percent of their power from renewables by 2006, and 10 percent by 2011. Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, issued an executive order directing New Mexico to achieve 2000 emissions levels by 2012, 10 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, and a 75 percent reduction below 2000 emission levels by 2050. New Mexico is also the first state to join the Chicago Climate Exchange, a voluntary cap-and-trade partnership.

Oregon: The Legislature has adopted California’s emissions standards. Portland has a “local action plan on global warming,” which calls for a 10-percent reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by 2010.

Utah: There is no statewide climate action plan, but Salt Lake City has one of its own, which includes increasing the efficiency of government buildings and encouraging the use of bikes and public transportation.

Washington: The Legislature adopted California’s strict vehicle emission standards and ordered a 20-percent reduction in state vehicles’ petroleum use by Sept. 1, 2006. Seattle has required its public utility to achieve zero net emissions of greenhouse gases each year, a goal to be met by offsetting emissions through increased energy efficiency, planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide, and other measures.

Wyoming: The Cowboy State has taken no major actions. VT

High Country News ( covers the West’s communities andnatural-resource issues from Paonia, Colorado.

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