Republican Lawmakers Skeptical About Global Warming Report

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – If the Legislature is to adopt any of the proposals in a state global warming report, it appears it is first going to have clear some skeptics.

The Climate Change Advisory Council’s recommendations, 54 in total, received some pointed criticism Monday from some Republican lawmakers on the Environmental Quality Council.

“I don’t think the state of Montana is the cutting edge that is going to fix this global warming crisis, if one exists,” Rep. Craig Witte, R-Kalispell, told the head of the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Most of the recommendations out of the climate change report would require adoption by the 2009 Legislature. A few minor changes can be implemented by Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who has so far launched an energy savings initiative for state government.

Overall, the report aims to reduce greenhouse gasses in Montana to 1990 levels by 2020.

Changes cover everything from automobiles — with such suggestions as requirements for California-style efficiency standards and low rolling resistance tires — to energy production, farming and industry.

So far, Schweitzer has said he is uncertain if he can support all of the recommendations.

Proponents of the changes say Montana could join a growing number of states pushing global warming initiatives, which will help advance the debate and put more pressure on the federal government to deal with the issues.

Committee chairman Sen. David Wanzenried, D-Missoula, said the legislators will start trying to find some proposals they could all support. He said he expects some conservation measures will pass muster.

The changes could get a jump-start if members of the legislative Environmental Quality Council were to jointly back the ideas. Instead, DEQ Director Richard Opper found himself facing pointed questions.

Witte said the California fuel standards, which Opper said are proposed to make sure Montana does not become a dumping ground for inefficient cars, could be restrictive. Witte, who called the report “junk science,” said that doesn’t make sense since only some states are following California.

Sen. Jim Shockley, who says he is inclined to believe that some human activity is contributing to global warming, pointed out that the Climate Change Advisory Council seemed to be stacked with people who believe in the science behind global warming reports.

“It’s almost a religion; you have to have faith,” the Victor Republican said. “They may be right. The environmental people may be right, but it takes faith.”

Sen. Robert Story, R-Park City, said Montana is too small to make much impact nationally, let alone internationally.

“We are not affecting much of anything,” Story said. “If we were to shut down the whole state and not produce another ounce, it would not affect much of the world.”

Opper said the climate change report found the changes would, overall, save as much money as they would cost. He said some sectors, like farming, may see a net benefit, while others like energy production could see costs.

But Opper was quick to point out that each would need full debate by the Legislature and more input from those affected.