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Federal government slow to act on climate, so US states do

Governors of both parties are taking the lead on finding ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

By Staff Writer of The Christian Science Monitor / May 24, 2007

"Lead, follow, or get out of the way" seems to be the message to Washington from political leaders around the country – Republican as well as Democrat – on climate change.

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Governors of both parties are taking the lead on finding ways to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that scientists say cause global warming.

On Monday, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) of Utah announced his state would join five others (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington) and the Canadian province of British Columbia as part of the recently formed "Western Regional Climate Action Initiative."

"This isn't about party politics," Governor Huntsman said in a Salt Lake Tribune story about the announcement. "It's about doing the right thing for all of our citizens."

Governors of Western US states in particular worry about the possible effects of global warming, including declining water resources, drought, and wildfires. In the heavily forested Pacific Northwest, for example, scientists predict more trees will die because of insect infestations.

"There'll be more insect outbreaks and insect-caused deaths and forest fires," said Amy Snover, a research scientist at the University of Washington in an interview with a Seattle Times reporter. "Forests will look different."

That's the kind of thing that concerns California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who's particularly upset that the federal government so far has not approved his state's plan to limit tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide from cars, light trucks, and sport-utility vehicles. Under the federal Clean Air Act, California may enact its own air-pollution standards as long as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants the state a waiver. Other states may then adopt California's tougher standards.

Writing in The Washington Post May 21, Governor Schwarzenegger and Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, also a Republican, blasted the EPA and the Bush administration for "inaction and denial" on climate change, which, they said, "borders on malfeasance." They added:

"By continuing to stonewall California's request, the federal government is blocking the will of tens of millions of people in California, Connecticut, and other states who want their government to take real action on global warming."

At an EPA hearing May 22 to consider the request by California and 10 other states, California Attorney General Jerry Brown threatened to sue the EPA for blocking California's vehicle pollution plan. Said Mr. Brown, as quoted by San Diego public radio station KPBS:

"In ordinary politics they are talking about immigration and Iraq – very serious – but from a long-term perspective, the threat of oil dependency and global climate disruption is much more threatening, much more difficult to deal with, and we gotta get going."