TCS Daily

Governors vs. the Constitution

By Jon Reisman - July 16, 2002 12:00 AM

New England's Governors will travel to Quebec this summer and likely sign an agreement with Eastern Canada's premiers to essentially implement the Kyoto Protocol's caps on carbon dioxide. Last year the group adopted climate change action plans agreeing to implement Kyoto; this year they have some specific goals and implementation schemes in mind.

The agreement reflects Kyoto clearly, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020. Action steps include establishing a regional, standardized greenhouse gas emissions inventory and emissions reduction plan, "educating" the public about the "problem, causes and solutions" of global warming, decreasing emissions from the electricity and transportation sectors and creating a regional registry and trading mechanism.

Somehow missing from this discussion are the following facts:

  • Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution: "No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance or Confederation... No State shall, without the Consent of Congress...enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power..."
  • President Bush has rejected Kyoto;
  • The Senate voted against the provisions of Kyoto 95-0;
  • The National Academy of Sciences found that the cause or causes of global warming couldn't be identified with any certainty or precision.

Even the very flawed models global warming advocates rely upon indicate that the proposed reductions in carbon dioxide emissions will have essentially no influence on climate. But they certainly will affect our wallets, our freedoms and our lives.

President Bush has taken a lot of grief on Kyoto and the environment, much of it coming from New England. It's not an accident that nine New England Senators are backing Senator Jefford's "Clean Power Act", which also seeks to implement Kyoto on the installment plan. Environmentalism is a civic religion in New England, and Senators and Governors most definitely read public opinion polls.

Nevertheless the Bush administration should notify the Governors that the United States Constitution still applies in New England, even on environmental matters, even with the recent relaxation of church/state concerns. We have not, as yet, dispensed with the formality of having the Senate ratify international agreements before we implement them. States are proscribed from making foreign or interstate agreements without the consent of Congress. It has not been given. And, one suspects, if there is ever an open and honest vote on the matter on the floor of the United States Senate, it won't be.

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias where he teaches environmental policy.

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