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Western Skies or Western Smog?

September 24, 2008

Salem, OR – A new plan to reduce global warming pollution in western North America has been drawn up by seven states, including Oregon, and four Canadian provinces. Unveiled on Tuesday, it includes a cap-and-trade system that starts with industry in 2010, and begins regulating fuels in 2015.

The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) proposal features a cap-and-trade system starting in 2010. Companies that reduce their pollution can sell or auction "credits" to companies that don't.

Doug Howell, Northwest regional director of the National Wildlife Federation, says Oregon was one of the first states to set greenhouse gas reduction goals, and this plan takes them a step further.

"You're going for the most cost-effective reductions, and that is the beauty and that is the intent of cap-and-trade. Those that can reduce most efficiently get rewarded by those who cannot and who therefore buy those extra credits."

One concern about the plan is that it delays fuel regulation until 2015, even though a major part of Oregon's pollution comes from tailpipe emissions. Howell says the next step for the plan is a review by the legislatures of the WCI states. Only California is set up to adopt it right away.

"We have high hopes that our legislators and our governors are going to do the right thing and make sure that 'polluter pays.' You know, we've just run out of room for a 'free lunch' - you just can't keep throwing that garbage into the air and not pay for it, because the cost is too big."

Not all the Western states chose to join the group. Some say it would be easier to tax companies by the ton for their pollution, while the WCI approach is to reward those who take the initiative to clean up.

The plan is online at

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR