Governor’s climate committee looks at cap-and-trade through an international lens; interstate battles over energy policy

Crosscut reports that the governor’s climate change committee heard yesterday from United Kingdom experts on their experience with cap-and-trade. Among other things, the experts say, “it’s complicated.”

However, Inslee suggested that a rudimentary cap-and-trade proposal could be mapped out this year, noting that Great Britain started out with a limited program that grew more sophisticated as the years passed.

We noted formation of the advisory group earlier this month. It’s clear that the governor intends an agressive 2015 climate change agenda. His goals are mirrored in Oregon, where Gov. Kitzhaber cited Washington in a speech to the Oregon League of Conservation Voters.

Just over a year ago, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and I asked the federal government for a comprehensive review of all of the coal export proposals pending in the Pacific Northwest — including the Ambre Energy proposal in Boardman Oregon. …

I commend Governor Inslee for assuring that Washington’s review of the coal export facilities proposed in his state reflect a full examination of the upstream and downstream impacts of coal: from rail congestion and coal dust to the air pollution we now experience on the west coast from burning coal in Asia.

Unfortunately, Oregon law is more limited…

In Oregon, the immediate issue concerns a coal export facility. The project developer, Ambre Energy, is awaiting construction permits from the Department of State Lands. Kitzhaber told the Conservation Voters that despite lacking the legal authority to undertake a global environmental impact statement,

I will do all that I can within the context of existing Oregon law to ensure that we do not commit ourselves to a coal-dependent future.

Meanwhile, a Montana congressman is calling on Inslee to rethink his efforts to block imports of coal-fired power.

Most of Washington’s coal-generated electricity comes from power plants in Montana and Wyoming. By setting the goal of eliminating “coal by wire,” Inslee has put himself at odds with elected officials in those two states.

“Your policy would have serious consequences for Montana jobs, the financial integrity of financial institutions and the price of electricity for families and businesses across the region,” [U.S. Rep. Steve] Daines wrote in a letter to Inslee.

Something similar is happening in the Upper Midwest, where a federal judge ruled that Minnesota’s laws designed to thwart North Dakota’s sale of coal-fired energy to the state violated the interstate commerce clause.  The Daily Kos (not a site I visit often) links to the opinion from U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson:

If any or every state were to adopt similar legislation (e.g., prohibiting the use of electricity generated by different fuels or requiring compliance with unique, statutorily-mandated exemption programs subject to state approval), the current marketplace for electricity would come to a grinding halt. In an interconnected system like [the Midwest Independent System Operator], entities involved at each step of the process—generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity—would potentially be subject to multiple state laws regardless of whether they were transacting commerce outside of their home state. Such a scenario is “just the kind of competing and interlocking local economic regulation that the Commerce Clause was meant to preclude.”

Interesting times ahead.  

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