WisBusiness Audio: Global Warming Task Force luncheon

The governor’s Global Warming Task Force finished its work in July, producing a raft of recommendations to cut carbon dioxide emissions in Wisconsin 22 percent by 2022 and 75 percent by 2050.

The heavy lifting will begin when the 63 polices go to the state Legislature.

Speaking at a recent luncheon sponsored by WisBusiness.com, Madison Magazine, the Madison Club and Xcel Energy, task force co-chair Tia Nelson said she wants the recommendations passed as a whole, not chopped up in pieces.

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Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, who attended the luncheon, said he would fight efforts to “undermine” the package.

“I believe the task force did a balanced job,” Miller said. “It’s a comprehensive proposal and the Legislature needs to be diligent to get it passed.”

To do that, the package will need the backing of the state’s business leadership, said Roy Thilly, president of Wisconsin Public Power Inc. and Nelson’s co-chair on the task force.

“Major corporations around the country are trying to get ahead of this,” said Thilly, who said he hopes companies will support efforts to cut C02 emissions here.

Thilly noted that the task force recommendations had the backing of 26 of the group’s 29 members, which included representatives from business, labor, utility and environmental groups.

Thilly said the package produced by the group was the result of 14 months of effort that resulted in near consensus.

“So it’s not surprising that some feel it is too strong, while others feel it is not strong enough,” he said.

Nelson and Thilly both defended the task force recommendation that the state pusue a regional cap-and-trade effort, even though that drew criticism from several members that it would be unworkable and too expensive.

Thilly said a federal program is preferable and held out hope that one will be enacted when a new president takes office.

But he said it is the states’ push on climate change that have prodded Congress to come up with a plan.

And he said Wisconsin and other Midwestern states need to be involved in the process so its concerns are not lost when and if national legislation is passed.

And while there is no price tag for the C02 reduction package, Nelson said predicted it will produce new employment for the state because it will stimulate new enterprises.

She cited Flambeau River Papers in Park Falls as a company that is in the process of switching to biomass power to cut pollution and save jobs.

Its affiliate, Flambeau River Biofuels, recently announced it will receive a $30 million federa Energy Department grant to build a $100 million plant that should be operating in less than three years. Nelson also called the controversy over possible new nuclear power plants in the state a “distraction” from the task force’s main efforts.

Even though the report said nuclear power should be considered, she said it would not be part of the solution for the next decade and that numerous condtions would have to be met before a facility could be built.

The state now has a moratorium on building new nuclear plants and she noted that the report does not recommend repealing it.