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Great Lakes Article:

Feinstein urges action on global warming
By Dena Bunis
The Orange County Register
Published January 17, 2006

WASHINGTON Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday unveiled a global-warming bill for the electricity sector that has the support of such major power companies as the Pacific Gas & Electric Corp.

Feinstein, D-Calif., has teamed up with Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., on the latest in a series of bills on climate change that are being introduced by senators in the first weeks of the 110th Congress.

Their bill would reduce electricity emissions to 25 percent below what they are expected to be by 2020.

To meet that cap, energy companies could participate in a "cap and trade" program. Under that plan, companies could either change the way they produce electricity and lower their carbon dioxide emissions themselves or pay others who have reduced their emissions for credits. Companies could then use those credits to meet their emission targets without actually lowering their own outputs.

"A scientific consensus has been forged," Feinstein said at a news conference. "Global warming is real. It's happening. It can't be stopped. But if we act now, and we if act with purpose, the most serious consequences can be averted."

PG&E Corp. Chairman Peter A. Darbee, said passing a bill to "cap greenhouse gas emissions at the federal level is the greatest way of efficiently addressing climate change and a necessary step in positioning the U.S. as a global leader on environmental issues."

The Bush administration and most Republican lawmakers have opposed such caps. President Bush is expected to outline his view of the climate change issue at next week's State of the Union address.

Feinstein's bill would keep lowering the amount of allowable emissions over time, something that has garnered the support of environmental groups. But the provision that would allow electric companies, for example, to buy credits from farmers and other non-energy entities has those same environmentalists concerned that in the end the most egregious pollution will not be stopped.

Feinstein is planning to introduce other climate-change bills. She is drafting a separate cap and trade bill for the industrial sector, a measure that would increase fuel economy standards by 10 miles per gallon over the next decade, a bill to promote the use of biodiesel and other low-carbon fuels and an energy efficiency bill modeled after California's program.

The various approaches to climate change will be sorted out by the Environment and Public Works Committee, under the chairmanship of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Boxer is a co-sponsor of a bill that would set a lower cap for emissions. Her bill would cut emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

"I welcome all bills on global warming,'' Boxer said in a statement. "I am very pleased that my colleagues are putting forward their best ideas, and I think that Senator Feinstein is making an important contribution to this debate. I know how hard she has worked on her bill."

California last year became the first state to pass a climate-change bill. It calls for a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

In addition, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order that provides for a cap and trade program to help accomplish that goal.

There is a cap and trade experiment working in Southern California. The South Coast Air Quality Management District uses a cap and trade system to reduce smog-forming pollutants nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide in the air.

That program has been in place since 1994. Agency spokesman Sam Atwood said so far it has resulted in some industries reducing their emissions through new equipment or updated processes. Others, he said, have taken advantage of the ability to buy credits from companies that have reduced their pollution levels beyond what is required.

"It's been a success," says Atwood. He said annual audits have shown that smog levels have been reduced and that they have been lowered in the geographic areas most in need of relief.

Feinstein and other senators who have global-warming proposals will have a chance to pitch their ideas at a committee hearing Boxer has called for later this month. Boxer said she is committed to getting a global-warming bill done during this Congress.

 

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