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Western Climate Initiative: A Lack of Leadership?

August 13, 2008

Portland, OR - Oregon and six other Western states, frustrated with the lack of a federal plan to reduce climate-changing pollution, are developing their own plan. It's not yet final, but it's already drawing some criticism for not being tough enough on major polluters.

The "Western Climate Initiative", which also includes four Canadian provinces, would allow industry to use "offsets," buying carbon credits instead of actually reducing emissions, to meet two-thirds of their cleanup goals .

Doug Howell, Northwest director for the National Wildlife Federation, says so far, the WCI plan is less strict than what Congress was considering.

"In almost every respect, it is holding a lesser standard compared to the Climate Security Act. So, if their purpose was to demonstrate leadership, they are failing."

Howell believes Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski should take a stand to strengthen the plan, before it's published next month. Proponents of offsets say they give companies some flexibility and financial incentives to help them work on reducing their emissions.

K.C. Golden, policy director for Climate Solutions, says states like Utah, which depend on coal for power, are pushing for the higher levels of offsets and he believes Oregon should push back.

"It is ravaging our economy and our environment, right now. It's past time for these kinds of palliatives, half-measures and shell games. We need a real, strong, verifiable program, and that's what a cap on carbon can do, if we don't shoot it full of holes by allowing too many offsets."

Golden says the WCI is a chance for the West to steer its own energy future, rather than wait for a federal plan. He suggests people who are concerned about it speak up now, because the final plan will be released in about six weeks.

To read the proposal and learn more about the WCI, visit their Web site at
www.westernclimateinitiative.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR