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"State and Regional Initiatives: Inconsistencies call for Federal Regulation"

On July 6, 2007, Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey signed into law the “Global Warming Response Act.’’ With that act, New Jersey joined a growing number of states that are attempting to address climate change through laws, regulations, policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

California has been the early standard bearer, with the passage in 2006 of AB 32—the “Global Warming Solutions Act”—and, in the absence of congressional action, other states are moving to fill the void. Also important are regional GHG emissions trading efforts such as the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative and the New York State-led Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the program closest to implementation.

Although state environmental regulation traditionally has lacked uniformity, in most cases federally mandated minimum standards have existed to guide the regulated community. This is not the case in the area of GHG regulation, where the multiplicity of state and regional efforts has resulted in significant regulatory inconsistency, with concomitant uncertainty for corporations in short- and long-term investment planning.

Concerned with this lack of consistency, corporate leaders are calling for change.

In February 2007, for example, the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, convened by Columbia University’s Earth Institute (whose membership includes leaders of major multinational corporations such as General Electric, DuPont, International Paper, NRG Energy and National Grid), issued a joint statement, the Path to Climate Sustainability, supporting the establishment of worldwide and sector-wide consistency in carbon markets, incentives regulations that would “reward efficiency emissions avoidance, encourage innovation,… create a level playing field across technology options, and thereby, reduce the overall, systemwide cost of de-carbonization.”

This article reviews the similarities and differences among the emerging regional state approaches for restricting and reducing GHG emissions, and discusses the pressure for consistency in GHG regulation via federal regulation.

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