Meeting of U.S. West States Lays Regional Carbon Groundwork

Jul 25, 2014 2:25 pm ET

(Updates with comment from Idaho administrator in fifth paragraph.)

July 25 (Bloomberg) -- Top air regulators from 13 states across the western U.S. met in private last week to talk about how they could work together on carbon-emissions cuts proposed by the Obama administration.

California Air Resources Board chairman Mary Nichols, Nevada Environmental Protection administrator Colleen Cripps and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality director Henry Darwin attended the July 17 meeting in Denver, spokesmen for their agencies said. The closed discussion was organized by Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy, led by former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to cut carbon-dioxide pollutants from power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 includes an incentive for states to develop regional carbon-trading systems. States that combine efforts can get an extra year, until 2018, to comply.

“The meeting provided a forum for us to get a better understanding of how the proposal works,” said Camille St. Onge, spokeswoman for Washington’s Department of Ecology, which sent a climate and energy specialist. “We’re in the process of determining what makes sense for us, including working with other states in a regional market.”

John Chatburn, interim administrator of the Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy Resources, said by telephone yesterday that, while a broader carbon market wasn’t specifically discussed, “it did lay the groundwork for exploring the potential of either a regional or multi-state or bi-state program.”

Early Conversation

There was talk of states combining their reduction goals in a “regional consortium,” North Dakota Air Quality Director Terry O’Clair said by phone yesterday.

“I don’t know if the saddle is tightened onto that horse yet, but that was talked about,” O’Clair said.

Dave Clegern, a spokesman for California’s air resources board in Sacramento, described it as a “productive early conversation with the Western states.” California started a carbon cap-and-trade market last year designed to help cut emissions 20 percent by 2020.

Last week’s meeting operated under the Chatham House Rules, meaning those who attended are free to use information discussed but agreed not to disclose the identities of those who participated, Ritter said by telephone.

“They were trying to encourage people to speak freely,” Chatburn said.

Joseph Goffman, associate assistant administrator and senior counsel at EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, also attended the meeting, the agency said.