With a flourish of pens followed by handshakes, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made it official: the Beehive State is now part of the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative.
First reactions to the agreement were mixed.
Other members of the partnership to curb climate change, besides Utah and California, are New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, Oregon and the Canadian province of British Columbia. They have agreed to work toward setting standards to reduce greenhouse emissions under a market-based program called "cap and trade."
During a news conference Monday in the Governor's Mansion, Huntsman and Schwarzenegger were highly critical of the Bush administration's failure to take significant action to lower greenhouse gas emissions, notably carbon dioxide, that are blamed for global warming.
"Gov. Schwarzenegger's leadership on this issue, where the federal government has failed, has been instrumental," said Huntsman. He added that a regional approach is the best way to take action soon.
"We are leading the charge. We're not waiting for Washington any longer," he said.
Schwarzenegger said the agreement is huge and that it sends a clear message to the federal government: "We are creating this partnership because of lack of leadership there."
Asked by the Deseret Morning News if a reduction in CO2 might cause the country to become more dependent on nuclear power, Schwarzenegger replied that when thinking about alternative power sources, "I think the key thing is to make sure that it is environmentally sound. And I always personally feel that until we find a way of disposing with the nuclear waste and dealing with that issue, that is still a problem."
Huntsman added, "I'll just say to that, that we have worked very, very hard to ensure that our state never becomes a dumping ground for waste. We worked very hard the last couple of years on that.
"And we're not going to turn around as a state and say that all of a sudden we open it up for nuclear energy, just to see things dumped here."
Huntsman said technology should progress to the point that nuclear power plants will have on-site storage and reprocessing of waste.
"This is a period of great innovation and breakthrough, in terms of technology in the energy sector," he added. "And when that happens I think we'll all feel a lot better about nuclear being part of a shared approach."
The initiative would work out emissions limitations on a state and regional basis. It also would set up the "cap and trade" policy in which pollution control credits could be purchased.
Huntsman said the memorandum brings the two states together as never before in achieving goals concerning climate change. "This will set the stage for much-needed improvements ... in our air quality, and in our state making meaningful contributions in addressing climate change."
Utah should be at the vanguard on the issue, he said. Working together, states of the region can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encourage new economic initiatives that create jobs and move more rapidly toward energy independence for the United States, according to Huntsman.
He cited "advanced research" at the University of Utah on carbon sequestration, which could help to reduce pollution from power plants. Such technology might offer a way to continue using coal, of which Utah is an important producer, without releasing dirty air.
"Our air isn't just ours," Huntsman said. "It blows in from other states and other regions. The same happens with our water.
"And as the old saying goes, 'We all live downstream.'"
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