Arizona will no longer take part in the landmark cap-and-trade agreement that served as the foundation of a multistate alliance formed to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order dictating that Arizona will remain in the Western Climate Initiative, a collaborative effort between seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, though she said the state’s economy would suffer if it didn’t pull out of the cap-and-trade program, which uses credits and other measures to cap the amount of carbon emissions and other pollutants a facility can discharge.
The initiative’s cap-and-trade program is scheduled to begin in Jan. 2012.
“I’ve always said that I would be a member of the Western Climate Initiative,” Brewer said on Feb. 11. “But I think that we should change the direction, that we should deal with cost-savings to the people of Arizona, certainly look toward more renewable, and have a good, solid discussion on it. But I think that we cannot move totally in the direction of where the WCI wants to move because it’s just too darn expensive.”
Brewer wrote in her executive order that Arizona can “strive for pragmatic, proactive approaches to climate change mitigation” by encouraging clean and renewable energy. Brewer has vowed to encourage solar and other renewable energy companies to set up shop in Arizona, and signed legislation in 2009 that provides tax breaks for such companies.
“While politicians and scientists debate regulatory responses to climate change, Arizona is becoming a leader in the field of solar and renewable energy,” Brewer wrote.
In January, Brewer announced that she would keep Arizona in the initiative, saying it was important for the state to have a voice in the formation of WCI policy. She didn’t mention at the time that she was considering withdrawal from the cap-and-trade program established by the alliance.
Brewer’s strikes a balance between full participation and pulling out entirely. Some conservatives who are skeptical of climate change theories have urged her to withdraw completely from the alliance, while many environmentalists support cap-and-trade programs.
The executive order also establishes the Climate Change Oversight Group, which will monitor federal policies on climate change and advise the governor “on how to best assert Arizona’s position on these matters.” The 15-member group will include representatives from nine sectors, including utilities, mining companies, agriculture, manufacturing, tribal nations, local government and non-governmental organizations, including environmental groups.
Brewer’s executive order emphasizes that any cap-and-trade rules would require legislative approval.
Ben Grumbles, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said clean and renewable energy programs are the best way for the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“The basic message is Arizona needs a green-and-grow approach rather than a cap-and-trade approach right now, that we can cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost the economy with common sense, clean energy solutions,” he said.