Group demands carbon emission cuts of 6 percent a year
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- The Idaho Board of Environmental Quality has unanimously rejected a petition to strictly limit and regulate fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions in Idaho.
The board made its decision last week after an organization that represents agricultural groups in Idaho detailed its opposition to the proposed rule, but members had plenty of their own reasons for denying the petition.
Board members were concerned about the cost of dramatically reducing so-called greenhouse gas emissions. They also doubted they had the authority to create such a rule.
Board member Craig Harlen noted that Idaho is already in compliance with federal regulations regarding greenhouse gas emissions and Joan Cloonan pointed out that under Idaho law, any proposed regulation more stringent than federal standards would have to pass the Idaho Legislature.
The petition was filed by the national group Kids vs. Global Warming, which has filed petitions or lawsuits seeking similar reductions in all 50 states. Before voting, IBEQ board members met in executive session to discuss the possibility of pending litigation.
The petition calls for Idaho to ensure carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use in the state peaks in 2012 and is reduced 6 percent a year until at least 2050.
Martin Bauer, who heads the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality's air quality division, told board members that Idaho sources release about 17.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. A 6 percent reduction would amount to 1.03 million metric tons the first year under such a rule.
Bauer said he's not sure how the state could statutorily regulate transportation, the biggest piece of the emissions pie, and regulating residential emissions would be highly controversial. That leaves the commercial and industrial sectors, which together account for 4.4 million metric tons. Requiring them to reduce their emissions by a total of 1.03 million metric tons would represent a 25 percent cut.
"The cost of implementing this petition outweighs any small potential benefits," Cloonan said. "To get that type of reduction through the regulatory process ... is just about impossible."
The proposed rule was opposed by the Idaho Council on Industry and the Environment, whose membership includes most of the state's major agriculture organizations.
ICIE Executive Director Patricia Barclay pointed out the U.S. Supreme Court recently blocked a federal lawsuit by some states and environmental groups trying to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. She added that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the Clean Air Act leaves no room for the control of "greenhouse gas emissions by federal judges."
Sam Routson, who works for Idahoan Foods but spoke against the rule as an individual, said the proposal "amounts to nothing more than a policy fight that should be taken to the state and federal levels and which has so far failed to prevail at (those) levels."