West Coast states sign climate alliance

Steps aim to raise the cost of greenhouse gas pollution and promote zero-emission vehicles.


The governors of California, Oregon and Washington and the premier of British Columbia said the compact could simultaneously reduce carbon emissions and create new clean-energy jobs in a region of 53 million people that is equivalent to the fifth-largest economy in the world.

But while California and British Columbia have already taken steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it was unclear whether legislatures in Oregon and Washington could be persuaded to endorse the plan. Legislators in both states refused in 2009 to approve market-based plans to reduce carbon pollution.

Meeting in San Francisco on Monday, the three governors and British Columbia’s environment minister pledged to harmonize their existing targets to reduce carbon pollution by 2050. The governors of Oregon and Washington said they would work toward setting limits on carbon in fuels; California has already done so. Other initiatives in the pact would further integrate the region’s electricity grid, standardize energy-efficiency requirements for appliances and streamline the approval of clean-energy projects.

Carrying out those and other steps in the region, with its $2.8 trillion annual economy, could lead industries to adopt them nationwide, said Ellen Hanak, an economist and senior fellow at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

California’s fuel-efficiency standards, for example, have largely been adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency nationwide. Automakers are already selling vehicles nationally with fuel-saving technologies developed for California’s vast market, she said.

“Our generation has an opportunity to lead on the world stage,” said British Columbia’s premier, Christy Clark, who spoke via a broadcast link from Victoria. “This agreement signals we are ready to innovate and work together to achieve a healthy, strong and secure future.”

California already mandates a 10 percent reduction by 2020 in the carbon content of fuels like diesel and gasoline, which account for more than two-fifths of the state’s greenhouse gas pollution.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the legality of the standard, part of climate-change legislation that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promoted in 2007.

California also has a cap-and-trade program in which major businesses, utilities, and oil and natural gas suppliers whose carbon-dioxide emissions exceed set levels have to buy emissions rights from those who emit less. British Columbia taxes carbon pollution.

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