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Governors On Emissions: Westward No

Seven Western states are joining four Canadian provinces to propose a plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions through use of a "cap and trade" system.

The draft plan, made public Wednesday by Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski's office, is aimed at gradually reducing carbon emissions across Oregon, Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Washington.

The plan, which also would extend to British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec in Canada, is keyed to a cap and trade system on utilities and industries that are major sources of greenhouse gases.

Such a system would reduce pollution by requiring those sectors to meet tough emissions standards. Under a cap and trade program, businesses that cannot cut their emissions because of cost or technical hurdles would be allowed to buy emission credits from companies that have achieved cleaner emissions.

The plan was drafted by the Western Climate Initiative, a group created by Kulongoski with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire in February 2007.

In Oregon, it will affect about 10 utilities and about 50 companies that put more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, officials said.

Officials in Kulongoski's office described the plan as a work in progress and will be subject to further revision at a meeting of the group next week in San Diego. A final proposal is expected to be forwarded to leaders of the seven states and four provinces in September.

Kulongoski's global warming adviser, David VantHof, said while Congress is considering similar cap-and-trade legislation, the Western states and Canadian provinces aren't willing to wait for the federal government to move to regulate greenhouse gases.

"There is no certainty that that is going to be achieved" in Congress, he said.

VantHof also said that it will take a major lobbying effort by Kulongoski and others to win approval of the plan from the 2009 Oregon Legislature, since the costs of the system to curb global warming may slightly push up power rates and fuel prices.

But he also said people should end up paying less because the system will also promote conservation and efficiency that will lower their fuel bills overall while curbing greenhouse gases that many scientists say are altering the earth's climate.

One environmental advocate, Jeremiah Baumann, called the draft proposal "an impressive and important step," to approach global warming on a regional basis, but said the plan is in need of some revision.

While the draft plan begins the cap and trade system for utilities and industries by 2012, the plan doesn't cover transportation and heating fuels until 2015 even though both are major sources of greenhouse gases, Baumann said.

"There are a few significant problems that, if not fixed, mean the program could miss out on the potential for global warming solutions," he said.