TCS Daily


Remember (the) Maine!

By Jon Reisman - June 8, 2005 12:00 AM

The search for a sustainable climate change policy took small steps in the right direction in Maine this year.

In 2003, on a party-line vote, Maine passed legislation implementing the New England Governors/Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP). The CCAP, a regional version of the Kyoto Protocol, committed New England and Eastern Canada to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, 10% below that by 2020, and eventually by 70-80% or more.

Policymakers have not been concerned that the CCAP is constitutionally suspect, expensive and ineffective. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) crafted the plan and decided not to discuss either the costs or the averted global warming benefits explicitly, but rather to focus on other environmental benefits (such as an alleged reduction in asthma) and to ignore or obscure the likely impact on energy bills. The plan would not be submitted for an up or down vote, but rather implemented piecemeal by executive order, litigation, statute, rule-making and public education.

Representative Henry Joy (R-Crystal) had a different idea and submitted LD 72, An Act to Promote Sound Science in Climate Change Policy.

LD 72 was short (under 200 words), clear and concise: it required that "when the Department of Environmental Protection adopts rules designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the department must issue an estimate of the amount of global warming that will be prevented and the costs that will result from the rules requiring reduction in greenhouse gas emissions." In the absence of any legislation on overall climate change policy, and given the appealing simplicity of the bill itself, LD 72 seized the climate change policy agenda.

Maine's business and regulated community, in an unusual showing of both unity and backbone, testified in favor of the bill. National advocates for sound science and market capitalism, including TCS's Sallie Baliunas, American Council for Capital Formation's chief economist Margo Thorning, and the American Legislative Exchange Council gave powerful supportive testimony. The DEP and Maine's environmental groups testified against the bill. Two committee members, Reps. Tom Saviello (D-Wilton) and Robert Daigle (R-Arundel), both environmental professionals, were publicly criticized by the environmental left for crafting bi-partisan consensus as opposed to partisan gridlock and status quo. Facing unaccustomed criticism and having already lost control of the issue, the committee and DEP leadership accepted the watered down compromise, perhaps incorrectly assuming they could control and limit the actual implementation.

The result is a first for Maine environmental policy: economic factors will be considered, however faintly. Some minimal increase in honesty, transparency and accountability will be expected. Maine's climate change policy now has at least a patina of bipartisan consensus and legitimacy which it previously lacked. The "sound science" in the original title proved too odious for environmentalists to bear, and was replaced with An Act To Review Climate Change Policy Effectiveness.

The DEP and the Governor's office declined to issue even a press release upon gubernatorial signature. In the absence of any official ownership and explanation, the environmental left quickly moved to inaccurately define one of the first truly bipartisan environmental laws in more than a decade as "Money trumps environment " and a step backwards. It was left to market and sound science advocates to offer any positive analysis. The DEP has once again lost control of the agenda, and environmental policy and public opinion thereof is still a drive-by victim of the culture war.

As the State legislature prepares to leave Augusta this month, a new bumper sticker would not be inappropriate: "Climate Change Policy Happens." Here's hoping that similar happenings on climate change policy will occur is State capitals and Washington D.C. in short order. It's a hope that might sustain us.

Jon Reisman teaches environmental policy at the University of Maine at Machias. He is also a Maine Public Policy Institute scholar, a Maine Heritage Policy Center fellow and contributor to TechCentralStation.com.


 

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