Environmental groups protest NY gov’s retreat on climate pollution plan

Environmental and energy groups across New York state are calling on Gov. David Paterson to back away from promises he made to power producers to rewrite the state’s role in nation’s first plan to cut global warming pollution, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). According to a March 6 story in the New York Times, the governor made a deal with the Independent Power Producers of New York (IPPNY) last fall to re-open the regulations after the group failed to pressure the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to weaken the RGGI rules.

The RGGI is the nation’s first enforceable plan to cap and trade global warming emissions from power plants. The initiative is a critical piece of the Northeast’s overall strategy to address climate change, which includes energy conservation and generating a greater portion of energy from clean, renewable sources. Late last year, New York cleared the way to participate in a December auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution permits. The RGGI regulatory framework will hold CO2 emissions constant through 2014, and then gradually reduce those levels.

The groups protesting Paterson’s retreat from the RGGI, led by Environmental Advocates of New York, include Natural Resources Defense Council, New York Public Interest Research Group, Earthjustice, Columbia University School of Law Environmental Law Clinic, and Pace Energy & Climate Center. (ReadMedia Newswire, March 6)

Ironically, Paterson’s retreat comes as several states are fighting the federal government to impose more stringent rules on emissions than those mandated by the EPA. However, we dissent from the the RGGI’s provisions on carbon trading.

See our last posts on the climate crisis and the petro-oligarchical rule.

  1. EPA reconsiders California request to regulate vehicle emissions
    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) March 5 held a hearing to reconsider California’s request to regulate automobile greenhouse gases. Chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board Mary Nichols was joined by environmental groups and other state officials at the hearing to encourage the EPA to reverse its prior decision denying California’s request. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia seek to adopt standards similar to California’s.

    The Clean Air Act provisions on state standards prohibit states from “adopt[ing] or attempt[ing] to enforce any standard relating to the control of emissions from new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines.” However, a state can obtain a waiver for exemption from this policy following a public hearing “if the State determines that the State standards will be, in the aggregate, at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable Federal standards.” No such waiver will be issued if the EPA finds that “the determination of the State is arbitrary and capricious,” “such State does not need such State standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions,” or that “such State standards and accompanying enforcement procedures are not consistent with” Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act.

    California’s request was initially denied in March 2008 on the grounds that California’s regulations were aimed at addressing global climate change and that the Clean Air Act “intended to allow California to promulgate state standards” to “address pollution problems that are local or regional.” In January, President Barack Obama ordered the EPA to reassess its 2008 holding. In May 2008, a report by the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that the Bush White House had influenced the March 2008 decision and that the administration later refused to turn over requested documents concerning the decision to the committee, citing executive privilege. The 2007 Supreme Court decision of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency held that the EPA has the authority to regulate automobile greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. (Jurist, March 6)