Democratic attorneys general warn Senate not to block state climate rules

Democratic attorneys general from seven states are pressing the architects of Senate climate legislation not to erode states’ authority to impose their own greenhouse gas curbs.

However, the officials are indicating they are open to a temporary moratorium on some state programs.

A letter Monday to Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) underscores concerns shared by environmentalists and some state officials that the upcoming Senate bill will preempt state programs and EPA’s existing Clean Air Act powers.

“Federal climate legislation that builds on, and works in conjunction with, existing and ongoing State initiatives is not only consistent with a long-established model of federal and State partnership, but will also create a robust and effective legislative scheme that will maximize environmental and economic benefits,” states the letter from AGs in California, Maryland, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Delaware and Vermont.

The letter touts the economic benefits of state-based programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a cap-and-trade system among northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce power plant emissions.

“There is simply no substantive basis to terminate such positive impacts and abandon RGGI and other similar initiatives at least until a national system is established and achieving equivalent or better results,” the letter states. It adds that it is unknown whether emissions measures in federal legislation will ultimately lead to the needed reductions.

“Keeping State initiatives viable – and, at most, imposing a temporary moratorium for a fixed period of time – would provide a valuable incentive to ensure rigorous implementation and enforcement of the federal program,” the letter states. It also says that any temporary limit on state or regional programs should apply solely to cap-and-trade programs, allowing other state-based climate programs to remain in force.

The Senate trio is expected to unveil their bill around Earth Day, which is April 22.