Another Alarming Development in the States

by Paul Chesser, Heartland Institute Correspondent on October 14, 2008

Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

I plan to address this more in a future post, but it's important to get this information out now, and we have my colleague David Bass at the John Locke Foundation to thank. What is happening is an ACORN-ification of state air quality regulators, where directors of those agencies are hassling the businesses and industries they regulate into reporting their greenhouse gas emissions (and to pay for the privilege of doing so) to The Climate Registry. What is then created is an atmosphere of pressure, even though these air quality regulators claim participation is "voluntary."

In his story today David illustrates how the scam works, focusing on North Carolina's role:

The N.C. Division of Air Quality paid $100,000 to help fund The Climate Registry, a California-based group, and aggressively recruited companies to join as pollutant reporters, public records show.

Records also show that Brock Nicholson, deputy director of DAQ, played a key role in launching the nonprofit. Nicholson, who is on The Climate Registry’s board of directors and executive committee, traveled on behalf of the registry, charged all his costs to DAQ, and tried to recruit surrounding states to join and pay membership fees….

In addition, air quality officials conducted a recruitment seminar last year at (the NC) [Department of Environment and Natural Resources’] offices in Raleigh aimed at persuading companies to join. Nicholson also sent a letter on DENR stationery to more than 3,000 entities in North Carolina, many of them DAQ-regulated companies, asking them to sign on.

So, even though greenhouse gases are not regulated, state air quality agencies are pressuring businesses to report their emissions anyway because of the expectation (and hope) that they soon will be regulated. As the Locke Foundation's vice president for research, Roy Cordato, said, "These are companies that, in may cases, the Division of Air Quality holds the power of life and death over through its emissions permitting process." Think these businesses might believe they get greater favor by signing on to the Climate Registry?

Getting companies to join also turns up the heat on the federal government to implement such regulations, with another environmentalist's justification chit being, "Well, we're already doing it anyway, so you might as well…" The strategy also helps in the case that businesses "voluntarily" turn over otherwise irrelevant data for their environmentalist opponents to use (with the Clean Air Act? The Endangered Species Act?) as a litigation club against them.

As I mentioned earlier, North Carolina is not the only state doing this. In fact, all but a handful are participating — just look at the Climate Registry's list of board members, which includes the air quality regulation official from every state (and Canadian province) that is participating. And what do you have to do to become a board member? Among the requirements (PDF):

  • …encourage entities in [state, province or tribe] to voluntarily report their emissions to The Climate Registry…
  • Work with The Climate Registry to identify a set of greenhouse gas emissions minimum data quantification standards to be recognized by member states, provinces and tribes in both voluntary and mandatory reporting and emissions reduction programs
  • Work to incorporate these minimum data quantification standards into any mandated greenhouse gas reporting and emissions reduction program
  • Develop a nationally recognized platform for credible and consistent greenhouse gas emissions reporting
  • Broad Engagement: Conduct outreach to other states and tribes and potential reporting entities

The stage is being set for a fight on this front in all three branches of government, and private businesses are turning over ammunition to their enemies unnecessarily. In North Carolina, already our two largest investor-owned utilities — Progress Energy and Duke Energy — have signed on. They are doing their investors and their customers a disservice.

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