WisBusiness: California official says state global warming laws prod feds

By Brian E. Clark

MADISON – Individual states should continue to pass restrictions on carbon monoxide not only to put a dent in global warming, but also to prod the federal government into taking action, a California Environmental Protection Agency official said today at a Monona Terrace conference.

Eileen Wenger Tutt, an EPA deputy secretary, said “ecological federalism” should be protected so states have the autonomy to pass laws that protect the environment. And she noted that Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may sue the federal government if it tries to stop California from restricting tailpipe gas emissions.

Tutt, who spoke at a four-day Multi State Working Group environmental performance meeting, said business leaders have encouraged the Bush administration to do more about global warming. And she said inaction by the United States, is slowing any moves by other major polluters such as China and India.

Tutt said California joined with 34 other states – including Wisconsin – three months ago and all agreed to create a registry to calculate their “carbon footprints.”

But what she and many other environmental officials would greatly prefer is a federal registry.

“We don’t want states calculating carbon different ways,” she said. “We want one ton of carbon in California to equal one ton in Wisconsin.

Tutt praised business leaders who are asking the federal government to take action. Until then, she said there will be a regional movement to create a market-based cap and trade system that will give industry flexibility while at the same time reducing emissions.

And even though state governments often don’t like it when cities and counties go out on their own, she said that can be helpful to push the effort to limit greenhouse gases and make other environmental gains.

After her talk, Tutt said she remains hopeful that the Bush administration will make some carbon monoxide reducing steps during the remaining months of the president’s tenure.

But if he doesn’t, momentum is building behind efforts by states, counties and cities in the U.S., argued Tutt, who said she is pleased that most presidential candidates in both parties support climate change controls.

The conference continues through Wednesday. Organizers said it drew more than 125 Monday and that figure is expected to double today.