The House passed a bill that would pave the way for adoption of a regional cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
After several hours of debate on 19 proposed amendments, HF3195, sponsored by Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL-New Brighton), was approved 91-38 on April 23. Received April 24 by the Senate, it awaits action by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul) is the Senate sponsor.
As described by Knuth, the bill represents “a step in the process” of implementing a regional cap-and-trade system currently being negotiated by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and several other Midwestern governors. Those negotiations are expected to produce a model rule by November.
“The governor has taken a very important step, and we appreciate him showing leadership,” Knuth said.
In a cap-and-trade system, a limit would be placed on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions; power companies and other emitters would then be issued emission allowances that they could buy, sell or trade with one another.
The bill would give legislators a role in the process by requiring their approval of any regional agreement. It would also provide for a pair of studies — one on how to govern a cap-and-trade system and another examining the “economic, environmental, and public health costs and benefits” of cap-and-trade.
Several Republicans raised objections to the bill on the basis that man-made global warming — the problem the bill seeks to address — has not been scientifically proven to exist.
“Folks, just because you saw Al Gore’s movie doesn’t make you a global climatologist and an expert,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), alluding to the former vice president’s climate change documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Garofalo described concern over climate change as “a sad devotion to a false religion.”
Other members voiced concern that a cap-and-trade system would burden power companies with regulations that would put Minnesota at a competitive disadvantage with its neighbors.
“If we’re going to get the economy moving again, we can’t set Minnesota apart,” said Rep. Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove).
Other members praised Knuth for her leadership on the issue, and said the bill represented a step forward on an issue that many Minnesotans consider important.
“Our priorities should be that we should pollute as little as possible, period,” said Rep. Dennis Ozment (R-Rosemount).
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