Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Here’s the State-Based Climate Solution that Doesn’t Need Congress

Incoming Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) meets with well-wishers after he winning the gubernatorial election. (Credit: AP Photo / Matt Rourke) Click to Enlarge.
By and large, the 2014 midterms did not go well for climate hawks.  Republicans’ new majority in the Senate will allow them to at least slow down various climate policies, and maybe even scuttle a few completely.  The election also solidified the GOP’s grip on various state governments, making state-level green policy less likely, and threatening the rollback of existing laws.

But there was one big exception.

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Tom Wolf ousted Republican Governor Tom Corbett by a handy margin of 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent.  Wolf’s victory ended the lockdown the GOP had held over the state’s executive branch and both houses of its legislature.  But even more significantly, it served as an implicit endorsement by Pennsylvania voters of a prominent commitment Wolf made during the campaign:  if elected, he’d work to move the state into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Formed in 2008 and updated in 2013, RGGI is a cooperative effort by nine states in the Northeast to cut their collective carbon emissions using a single, shared cap-and-trade system.  To bring the state into RGGI, Wolf will have to go through the Republicans that still control its legislature.  But if he’s successful, the move would double the size of RGGI’s market and massively boost the system’s political legitimacy.

Most importantly, it could mark a turning point for climate efforts in the United States as a whole.  For the moment, there’s effectively no hope of national climate policy coming out of Congress, and the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules to cut power plant emissions will likely be mired in legal battles for years.  So it may well fall to the states — acting outside the aegis of the federal government — to combat climate change on their own.

Read more at Here’s the State-Based Climate Solution that Doesn’t Need Congress

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