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Senate panel bans agency regulations on greenhouse gas

The state agency that deals with environmental quality would be barred from enforcing any regional or state program that regulates greenhouse gas emissions under a measure that received committee approval in the Senate on March 15.

The approval came on the heels of Arizona’s decision in February to back out of a regional cap-and-trade program.

Gov. Jan Brewer decided last month that Arizona would remain a member of the Western Climate Initiative, a multistate alliance formed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but it will not implement its cap-and-trade proposal, which begins in 2012.

H2442, if approved by the Legislature and signed into law, would prohibit the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and other agencies from adopting or implementing any such program without clear authorization from the Legislature.

The vote in the Senate Natural Resources, Public Debt and Infrastructure Committee was 4-2, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing the measure.

After it gets approval from the Rules Committee, the legislation’s next stop is the Senate floor for a debate and a vote.

But critics cried that the legislation takes Arizona a step back.

“It again sends a very bad message from the Arizona Legislature and that message is ‘we don’t want to do anything to address climate change,’ ” said Sandy Bahr, lobbyist for the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter. “The science is overwhelming demonstrating that humans are affecting the climate.”

But for some policymakers, the debate on whether man is causing climate change is far from over.

And there are plenty of skeptics.

“We have to push back against these attempts to kill jobs based on phony science,” said Sen. Al Melvin, a Republican from Tucson.

Supporters of the measure zeroed in on the cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program in Arizona.

Gary Yaquinto, president of the Arizona Investment Council, distributed a glossy one-page summary of a study done by economists from ASU that his group commissioned showing the negative impacts of a cap-and-trade program on Arizona.

The Council represents equity investors in Arizona’s utility companies.

Yaquinto asked lawmakers to consider the impacts on all segments of Arizona’s economy when making a policy that imposes limits on greenhouse emissions.

Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, a Democrat from Phoenix, told the Arizona Capitol Times she understands concerns about job creation. But she still wants to see “cleaner” industries, she said.
“As bad as we need jobs, we don’t need something that is going to tear down what’s going on here environmentally,” she said.

In her executive order, Brewer had emphasized that any cap-and-trade rules would require legislative approval.

The executive order was an apparent attempt by Brewer to strike a balance between full participation and pulling out.

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