Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Maine officials heartened as battle about greenhouse gases continues

By BART JANSEN, Washington D.C. Correspondent
June 27, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court's decision to review a case that could force the federal government to limit carbon dioxide emissions got an enthusiastic reception in Maine, which has been a leader in the effort to limit so-called greenhouse gases. "This promises to be the most important Clean Air Act case the Supreme Court has ever heard," said Jerry Reid, an assistant attorney general for Maine. "It's very clear that emissions of carbon dioxide are posing a threat to public safety and welfare, and that's exactly what the Clean Air Act is designed (to address)."

Maine is among a dozen states that, along with advocacy groups, challenged a 2003 refusal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide. Lower courts have sided with the EPA.

Carbon dioxide is released during the burning of fossil fuels such as coal or gasoline. It is called a greenhouse gas because it traps heat in the atmosphere, a phenomenon known as global warming.

At the heart of the debate is whether carbon dioxide emissions should be controlled by limits on power plants and by requiring motor vehicles to become more efficient, thereby burning less fuel.

Maine's entire congressional delegation has long supported regulating carbon dioxide and welcomed the decision Tuesday in written statements or through statements from aides.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said the case is a sad commentary on the inability of both the Bush administration and Congress to directly address the issue of global climate change.

"(The) lack of a comprehensive strategy has forced the United States to relinquish any influence it could have had in international negotiations that move ahead without us," Snowe said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has introduced legislation to fight climate change by regulating carbon dioxide as well as other pollutants.

"In order to address this serious problem, it is important that we take steps now to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, automobiles and other sources," she said.

Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine and a member of the House Energy Committee, believes the Clean Air Act clearly requires the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions, said spokesman Mark Sullivan.

"The Bush administration has not complied with the law and (Allen) expects the Supreme Court to overrule the appeals court and uphold the Clean Air Act," Sullivan said.

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, said the case is an important step in dealing with greenhouse-gas emissions. "I am pleased that the state of Maine, along with others, has chosen to act to address the problem," he said.

Interest in reducing air pollution historically runs high in Maine. In fact, former Sen. Edmund Muskie, D-Maine, wrote the 1970 Clean Air Act.

Maine is among a small group of states that is taking steps to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars and power plants.

Cities and towns also have gotten involved. Portland adopted an anti-idling policy for city vehicles, among other measures, and Freeport schools placed "Turn Off Your Engine" signs in school parking lots and drop-off areas.

Washington D.C. Correspondent Bart Jansen can be contacted at (202) 488-1119 or at:

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