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State PUCs Pledge Carbon Fight

by Tam Moore
Capital Press, December 8, 2006

Emission reduction focus of governorsŐ joint agreement

The three Pacific Coast states have followed up on a pledge by their governors to fight climate change. And the public utility commissions of California, Oregon and Washington got New Mexico to join in the pact, signed Dec. 1 during a San Francisco conference.

What's called a "joint action framework on climate change" pledges public policy encouraging less use of fuels that emit carbon into the atmosphere, and more encouragement of alternate energy sources such as wind and solar. The four-state conference was broadcast live on the Internet.

"The four commissions will work together to implement shared principles for energy efficiency as a tool to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change," said Michael Peevey, chairman of the host California PUC in a news release that sent out the four-page plan.

The Pacific Coast governors had made their pledge to fight climate change in 2003 and updated it two months ago. All three states are headed toward common auto emission standards in years ahead. The PUC deal puts pressure on developers of future energy sources used to generate electrical power.

Target of the government attention is reduction of so-called greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide, a small part of the total atmosphere that's mostly water vapor, is thought by atmospheric scientists to trap warm air around the Earth and contribute to a gradual warming of surface temperatures.

Here's the joint-PUC program in a nutshell:

At the San Francisco meeting, most of the presentations were devoted to technology and practices that encourage energy efficiency.

Lee Beyer, chairman of the Oregon PUC, said efficient use of existing energy is a way to "avoid the inevitable costs" of regulating carbon emissions. The commissions heard that some technologies exist to capture more of the smoke-stack carbon emitted by coal and natural gas-fired power plants. They also heard the technology is spendy, raising the possibility of driving up future electricity rates.

Among those speaking were a French electrical engineer, Paul Baudry, and Mark Levine from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"Recognizing that fossil fuel-based electricity generation is a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, our regional commitment to advance energy efficiency is key to implementing measures that have a lasting impact," said Mark Sidran, chairman of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. "We look forward to continuing efforts to take regional action on climate change."

Tam Moore is based in Medford, Ore.
State PUCs Pledge Carbon Fight
Capital Press, December 8, 2006

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