Lawmakers Hash Out Ideas to Deal With Global Warming

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A legislative panel reviewing dozens of suggestions to deal with global warming carved out 15 for more study Monday.

The smaller group of suggestions focuses on conservation and largely stays away from more controversial measures, such as mandates on vehicle emissions, included in the larger group of 54 recommendations that came from the governor’s Climate Change Advisory Committee.

The legislative Environmental Quality Council is tasked with preparing legislation on the ideas.

But many suggestions are proving to be too controversial. Republicans on the panel balked at measures they perceived as possibly too costly for Montana residents and businesses.

“If we go forward with anything, we need to make sure we do not destroy the individual liberty of the people of Montana with some mandate,” said state Sen. Dan McGee, R-Laurel. “Let’s all keep in mind who is going to bear the burden of all this.”

He said Montanans would not like mandates or programs that created higher taxes.

The decision to have staff offer more study on 15 conservation oriented measures does not mean the panel endorses the ideas, nor does it exclude any of the other items from being brought forward for a vote at a meeting in May, or later.

Ideas getting more study include recycling, programs to promote local food, climate, public education, fuel-efficient state fleet vehicles and support for renewable energy programs.

The list does not include issues dealing directly with carbon emissions, standards on cars and off-road vehicles or other ideas that scored lower in a public survey sought by the panel.

EQC chairman Sen. Dave Wanzenreid, D-Missoula, said he was happy the panel was able to make a positive motion dealing with at least some of the ideas.

“I’m pleased that with the level of emotion that goes with these that we were able to get that much done,” he said. “This is a good first step.”

Most of the recommendations in 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 measures aim to reduce greenhouse gases in Montana to 1990 levels by 2020.

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