Led by California and New England, 31 states representing more than 70 percent of the U.S. population announced yesterday that they will jointly track and measure greenhouse gas emissions by major industries.
The newly formed Climate Registry is the latest example of states going further than the federal government in taking steps to combat global warming. State officials and some affected industries and environmentalists say the registry is a crucial precursor to both mandatory and market-based regulation of industrial gases that contribute to warming.
All agree the most important part of the new registry is that the emissions statistics that are collected will be subjected to third-party verification, unlike a Bush administration program that does not require verification.
"You have to be able to count carbon pollution in order to cut carbon pollution," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. "The registry gives business and policymakers an essential accounting tool for tracking the success of the many emerging global warming emission reduction initiatives that are blossoming across the country."
The registry participants, which include Maryland, range from states that are moving aggressively to impose mandatory greenhouse gas reduction policies to others that are just beginning to examine whether to take even voluntary steps.
The registry, which will be based in Washington with regional offices, will begin tracking data in January.
Bob Malone, chairman and president of energy giant BP America, said: "We believe a credible reporting system of greenhouse gas emissions is the first step in developing government policy and corporate programs."
BP produces and sells fuel to power plants, cars and trucks, the main contributors to greenhouse gases. The company is among several that applauded the creation of the registry, believing that in time they can profit from accurate reporting and reduction of their emissions.
All it takes for a state to join the registry is for the governor to sign off on the registry principles, which include agreeing to "provide an accurate, complete, consistent, transparent and verified set of greenhouse gas emissions data ... supported by a robust accounting and verification infrastructure." The registry will be funded by industry fees, foundation donations and public money.
Some Democrats criticized the Bush administration for not doing more, leaving states to take action on their own.
"The Climate Registry is another example of how states are taking the lead in the absence of federal action to address greenhouse gas emissions in this country," said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat whose state is a charter member.
White House Council on Environmental Quality spokeswoman Kristen Hellmer responded: "Apparently the critics are not paying attention to what has been happening in Washington. In 2002, President Bush called for the creation of a national reporting registry, and the federal government followed that call by creating state-of-the-art reporting protocols where businesses and institutions submit comprehensive reports on their greenhouse gas emissions, sequestration and reductions.
But industry, environmental and state registry officials said while it was true that the U.S. Department of Energy has a greenhouse gas registry, it does not require independent verification of data, among other key differences.
Department of Energy spokeswoman Megan Barnett said the department in April 2006 strengthened its guidelines for reporting emissions by recommending, but not requiring, that they be verified by a third party.
Dale Bryk, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, criticized the DOE registry for allowing participants to "cherry-pick and just report emissions data from facilities that are reducing pollution, without disclosing the emissions data from other facilities that are increasing pollution."
The registry members thus far include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Two Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Manitoba, have also signed on.
Janet Wilson writes for the Los Angeles Times.