In July 2002, the attorneys general of eleven states called on the White House to provide leadership in combating climate change. Calling global warming 'the most pressing environmental problem of our time,' the attorneys general called on Bush to cap carbon emissions. The group, which included the chief legal officers of New York, California, Massachusetts, and Alaska, criticized the president for not proposing 'a credible plan that is consistent with the dire findings and conclusions being reported.'
'By acting now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Bush administration can provide regulatory certainty to the business community, can spur private sector investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and can lay the groundwork to avoid the potentially disastrous environmental, public health, and economic impacts of global warning,' noted New York attorney general Elliot Spitzer.
Several months later, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the chief executives of nearly 250 cities called on Bush to act now on climate change, noting: '[T]he scientific community has reached a consensus that human activities are impacting the Earth's climate.'
They added, 'Mayors are uniquely situated to lead national climate protection efforts by taking action in a broad range of areas.' In their resolution, they noted that 'many mayors are already pursuing programs and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their cities and communities, including more than 125 local governments that have committed to assessing emissions, setting a specific reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions and monitoring progress.'
When the Bush administration refused to heed the calls of state and city officials, the attorneys general of seven states escalated their efforts in early 2003, filing a lawsuit against the federal government for refusing to regulate carbon dioxide through the Environmental Protection Agency.
They dropped that suit in favor of a broader one eight months later when eleven states, along with the District of Columbia and American Samoa, sued the federal government for its failure to deal with climate change. That suit, which was still pending as of this writing, claimed the EPA is required by the U.S. Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
'Because the United States is already dealing with the harmful effects of global warming, the American people want less talk and more action now,' Rhode Island attorney general Patrick Lynch said in a statement.
The attorneys general dismissed a claim by the EPA that the agency lacked authority from Congress to regulate greenhouse gases, citing the EPA's denial of a petition to impose controls on vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions.
Massachusetts attorney general Thomas Reilly said the carbon emissions are causing real environmental and health problems. 'You're seeing the erosion of our beaches. You're seeing saltwater contaminate our drinking water. You see damage to our infrastructure, to our roads and our causeways and our bridges,' he said.
On the West Coast, the governors of Washington, Oregon, and California announced in 2003 that they were pooling their resources to buy high-efficiency vehicles, develop renewable sources of electricity, and institute a verifiable system of measuring and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions.
Commenting on the partnership, K. C. Golden, of the Washington-based group Climate Solutions, noted: 'We can't afford to wait while the federal government fiddles. We have too much to lose as the climate becomes unstable, and too much to gain by taking a leadership role in developing climate solutions. The rest of the world's advanced economies have already begun to retool for a successful, prosperous transition to clean energy sources and efficient energy systems. With this announcement, the Governors are clearly signaling that the federal government won't stop America's most forward-looking states from taking action.'
From Boiling Point by Ross Gelbspan, pages 93-126 of the hardcover edition. Reprinted with Permission from Basic Books Copyright 2004.
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