Hawaii passes law to cap emissions at 1990 levels
Gov. Lingle has until July 10 to act on the bill, which wins broad bipartisan support
Backers say the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2007 will make Hawaii the second state in the country to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
The legislation calls for reducing the amount of greenhouse gases created in the state to 1990 levels by the year 2020.
That goal of emitting about 15 million tons of greenhouse gases a year would be 15 percent less than what is currently created, and 25 percent less than the state would be expected to emit by 2020 if the current upward trend continues, according to the Sierra Club. Air travel is excluded from the formula.
"This really is a historic day," state Rep. Kirk Caldwell (D-Manoa) said at a news conference Thursday after the state Legislature approved the bill.
"Being a small state, we're asking other, larger states and small states to join with us. And then to have the rest of our country, the federal government, follow, and hopefully the rest of this globe," Caldwell said. "We should feel so good about the action taken today."
Jeff Mikulina, state Sierra Club director and a proponent of the legislation, called global climate change "the greatest threat to Hawaii's prosperity" and "truly the greatest challenge of our generation."
The Legislature's approval is "making a promise to future generations that we're serious about addressing this critical issue," Mikulina said.
The measure received bipartisan support and passed by a 48-2 margin in the House and 23-2 in the Senate.
Gov. Linda Lingle has until July 10 to decide whether to sign the bill, let it become law without her signature or veto it.
The measure (HB 226, CD 1) calls for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to update greenhouse gas emission estimates for the base-line year of 1990 and to estimate current emissions.
Greenhouse gases, most prevalently carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, help trap heat in the atmosphere and raise the global temperature. Global climate change could lead to stronger storms, more droughts, rising sea levels and other significant effects, many scientists have concluded.
The bill requires a 10-member greenhouse gas emissions reduction task force to draft "practical, technically feasible and cost-effective" ways to do that by the end of 2009.
The panel will be co-chaired by appointees of the state Health Department and Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and include representatives of affected industries (electric utilities, refineries and ground and marine transportation), environmental organizations and the University of Hawaii's climate change commission.
Ways to reduce greenhouse gases might include more use of renewable power sources such as solar, wind and wave energy, and more fuel-efficient cars such as hybrid gas-electric vehicles, Mikulina said.
State Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua) warned that the bill is "a beginning." To achieve its goals will require "by 2012 that we start to make incremental steps," she said.
The bill appropriates $500,000 in fiscal 2008 and 2009 to pay for departmental and committee work to establish how the greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.