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Republican-led General Assembly should turn new leaf on environmental policy

JLF expert urges repeal of renewable energy mandates, rejection of global warming regulations

Contact: Dr. Roy Cordato
919-828-3876
rcordato@johnlocke.org

February 15, 2011

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Click here to view and here to listen to Dr. Roy Cordato discussing this Spotlight report.

RALEIGH -- The General Assembly's new Republican majority should scrap state renewable energy mandates, reject recommendations from a state global warming group, and realign its positions on environmental policies. A new John Locke Foundation Spotlight report offers that advice.

"Over the last decade, North Carolina has led the way among southern states in advancing a more extreme environmentalist agenda," said report author Dr. Roy Cordato, JLF Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar. "The GOP should start anew on environmental issues. Legislators should put environmental policy into the context of the ideas of liberty, personal responsibility, and economic growth that the party ran on last fall."

Cordato outlines several ways Republican legislators can differentiate themselves from their Democratic counterparts.

One set of recommendations involves new regulations. "First, no new environmental regulation or tax should be considered unless there is a real, identifiable problem that is to be solved," Cordato said. "Second, the regulation or tax must actually solve or ameliorate the problem in a scientifically verifiable way. If the first two conditions are met, it must be demonstrated that the benefits of the regulation or tax outweigh the costs."

Lawmakers also should repeal 2007 legislation known as Senate Bill 3, which created renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates, Cordato said. "Repealing S.B. 3 would send a strong message to North Carolina's industries and consumers that lawmakers are no longer willing to impose excessive costs on the state's economy in pursuit of nonexistent environmental benefits."

Republican legislators should pledge to reject all recommendations flowing from the state Climate Action Plan Advisory Group and the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change, Cordato said. "These policies would have no impact on the climate," he said. "They also would stifle individual liberty and creativity, increase the cost of living, and kill economic growth and job creation."

Lawmakers should clarify that nothing in current law authorizes state-based regulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, Cordato said.

"In light of the recent federal decision that forces states to regulate CO2 emissions, the legislature should make it clear that state officials can regulate CO2 only to the extent required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency," he said. "If EPA loses its authority to regulate CO2, then any state programs put in place to comply with EPA rules automatically would be dissolved."

Taking these steps would mark a change of course for many Republican legislators, Cordato said. "Even though Democrats were in charge as the General Assembly pursued extreme environmentalist policies during the past decade, it is clear the GOP also has been mesmerized by this environmentalist vision."

Cordato documents three cases of destructive environmental legislation that passed the General Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support.

"What might be called the eco-decade for North Carolina began in 2002 with the Clean Smokestacks Bill," he said. "All but four Republican representatives and one Republican senator voted for this bill, which included extreme requirements for nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions."

"North Carolina was the only state to sign onto this measure, which originated with the pressure group Environmental Defense," Cordato added. "Compliance costs originally estimated at $2.3 billion have now swelled by another $1 billion, and it appears that North Carolina is getting little -- if any -- benefit from these expenditures."

In the second case, 55 percent of House Republicans and almost 80 percent of Senate Republicans voted to create the legislative climate commission in 2005.

"It was clear from the outset that this group would be biased completely in favor of the global warming alarmist agenda," Cordato said. "The group recommended a laundry list of higher taxes and regulations and ignored its mandate to show how those recommendations would impact global temperatures."

Cordato labels S.B. 3 the last piece of the "environmentalist trilogy." Its renewable energy mandates mirror federal cap-and-trade legislation, without the trading provisions that allow for flexibility, he said. "S.B. 3 is a 'cap-and-no-trade' bill that imposes a huge tax on the state's economy," he said. "This measure passed with only five Republican 'no' votes in the House and one Republican objection in the Senate."

Now Republicans have a chance to change course, Cordato said. "Environmental pressure groups in the state and the agenda they advance are inconsistent with the principles of freedom and free enterprise that the Republican Party was so proud to espouse as the GOP was swept into office last November," he said. "Going forward, a great way to show their dedication to these principles is by examining their own past on environmental legislation and turning a new leaf."

Dr. Roy Cordato's Spotlight report, "Time For A Change: New legislature should realign its positions on environmental issues," is available at the JLF Web site. For more information, please contact Cordato at (919) 828-3876 or rcordato@johnlocke.org. To arrange an interview, contact Mitch Kokai at (919) 306-8736 or mkokai@johnlocke.org.

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