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Why the American West is out front on curbing greenhouse gases

The emissions cap under the Western Climate Initiative is equivalent to taking 75.6 million cars off the road.

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The Western states' effort is bipartisan, with governors of both parties joining up. This is especially true in California, the most populous state, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has taken the lead and Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) has gone after urban sprawl as a chief culprit in global warming.

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Last week, Attorney General Brown and San Bernardino County "settled a lawsuit over the negative effects of runaway growth on greenhouse gas emissions, an accord that could have implications for cities and counties throughout the state," the San Jose Mercury News reported.

"The settlement calls for San Bernardino County to account for the effects its land-use decisions will have on the emissions blamed for global warming. The county, which stretches from the Los Angeles County line to California's eastern border, is the largest by geographic size in the lower 48 states and has seen rampant growth.... It is expected to add 1 million residents by 2030, for a total population of 3 million…. The settlement requires the county to ... devise strategies to reduce carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases…."

The Democrat-majority Congress may be more inclined than the White House to take the kinds of steps to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that the Western governors seek. President Bush has invited world leaders to a conference on energy security and climate change to be held in Washington next month.

But last week a federal judge sided with environmentalists who sued the administration for failing to issue two scientific reports on global warming, USA Today reported.

"U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong ruled … that the Bush administration had violated a 1990 law when it failed to meet deadlines for an updated U.S. climate change research plan and impact assessment. Armstrong set a March 1 deadline for the administration to issue the research plan, which is meant to guide federal research on climate change. Federal law calls for an updated plan every three years, she said. The last one was issued in 2003."

Meanwhile, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, "Across the country, states and regions are adopting policies to address climate change."

"These actions include increasing renewable energy generation, selling agricultural carbon sequestration credits, and encouraging energy efficiency. Such policies reduce vulnerability to energy price spikes, promote state economic development, and improve local air quality."

Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maryland have joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast this year, bringing to 10 the states involved. The states have agreed to implement the first mandatory US cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide, the Pew Center reports.