Gov. Jan Brewer has issued an executive order that aims to continue Arizona’s participation in a multi-state agreement to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions.
Although her executive order does nothing but continue the status quo, it likely will send a message to lawmakers that she would oppose legislation that would end the state’s involvement in the Western Climate Initiative.
Arizona was a founding member of the Western Climate Initiative under Gov. Janet Napolitano, but Arizona Republicans saw an opportunity to pull out of the consortium of seven states and four Canadian provinces after Napolitano resigned to join President Barack Obama’s cabinet.
Rep. Andy Biggs, a Republican from Gilbert, introduced a bill during the 2009 session to end Arizona’s involvement, but it ultimately failed before reaching Brewer’s desk. As a result, she was never forced to take a position on it.
Biggs said he will reintroduce the measure again in 2010, although the governor’s decision will make passage “a bit difficult.
“With all of the scandal that has gone on with the fraudulent data perpetuated in order to extract money from governments over the global-warming issue, which is currently playing out, and with the idea that the Western Climate Initiative was formed in response to the faulty information , one wonders why you’d want to pay money to be member so the Western Climate Initiative,” Biggs said.
Brewer acknowledged that some lawmakers would not be pleased with her announcement, but defended her decision by saying Arizona must make its voice heard. “While some have advised me to drop out of the WCI, I believe if you’re not at the table, you are on the menu,” she said.
Rep. Chad Campbell, a Democrat from Phoenix, said he hopes Brewer will take a more active role in the initiative. Campbell said he has not seen much commitment to the Western Climate Initiative since Brewer took office.
“I’m not sure what the intent is but it’s encouraging that she’s staying in it,” Campbell said. “I think it’s too early to say anything concretely about this executive order. I think it’s encouraging and it leaves me some hope, but I think really the key now is, if we’re going to stay in WCI to make sure we stay engaged.”
The executive order keeping Arizona in the Western Climate Initiative was one of three announced by Brewer at a summit by the Western Business Roundtable on Jan. 5.
Brewer said she will create a task force to advise her on solar issues, and that she will direct the Arizona Department of Commerce, Land Department and the state’s three universities to meet with the Arizona Corporation Commission, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and several nonprofit organizations to “frame the issues in renewable energy generation projects” and to convene a town hall-style meeting to develop strategies for renewable energy products.
“We need to work very diligently trying to manufacture and supply renewable energy. It’s important to our environment and our clean air and the health of the people that live in Arizona,” Brewer said.
Brewer touted nuclear energy as a key to Arizona’s future. Though no new nuclear power plants have been approved by the federal government since 1979, Brewer embraced nuclear energy as a reliable power source that does not emit greenhouse gases, calling it “clean-air energy.”
But as much as she supports solar and nuclear energy, Brewer said, there is no question that Arizona will still be heavily reliant on coal, natural gas and oil for years to come, and she spoke out against proposed federal regulations that would require technological upgrades at the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant in Northern Arizona that provides energy for the Central Arizona Project and revenue for the Navajo and Hopi tribes.
Brewer cited federal estimates that world coal use will increase by 50 percent by 2030.
“Because of that, we need to be aware of its environmental consequences as we pursue clean coal technology,” she said. “Today, I challenge the Western Business Roundtable members to work with me to develop an innovative clean coal solution for the Navajo Generating Station.”
Rep. Daniel Patterson, an ecologist by trade, said the governor’s track record on environmental issues is less than encouraging.
Patterson, a Tucson Democrat, said he was concerned over the advisory committee Brewer is planning to establish to keep her informed on Western Climate Initiative activities.
“If that’s anything like her other, quote, environmental committees, they tend to be stacked with deniers and people who are usually hostile to clean energy,” he said.
Brewer’s office did not respond to questions about the makeup of the panel.