Herbert, Hatch decry federal cap-and-trade bill

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Critics of a federal Cap-andt-trade bill say the proposal would do much more harm than good for Utah.

Gov. Herbert and Sen. Orrin Hatch released a report Thursday that is highly critical of the proposed limits to pollution linked to global warming. The bill, which has passed the U.S. House, is the first-ever attempt to take on global warming nationwide. In Utah, though, there is fierce opposition to the idea.

The bill would limit carbon dioxide emissions. It would target energy-intensive industries, like refineries and power companies. They would have to buy the right to expel CO2, beyond a set amount.

What that translates to, especially in coal-and-gas rich Utah, is higher energy costs. The report claims Utahns would pay an average of $83 more a year if the bill passes, plus 20 cents more per gallon of gas. Hatch and Herbert spoke at a forum in a state office building, where critics in the energy industry assailed the bill. No environmental groups were invited to be participants at the forum, although it was open to the public.

The report also cited a United Nations report that says the benefit would be just two-tenths of a degree. over 100 years.

Hatch contends that the costs associated with the bill outweigh any benefits achieved from a reduction in global warming. Herbert, meanwhile, still isn't convinced whether humans have an impact on global warming despite widespread acceptance in the scientific community that they do.

In opening comments, Herbert didn't mention climate change or global warming once in reference to the federal bill.

"All of us understand the benefit, at least being proposed, by a cap-and-trade piece of legislation, which is cleaning the air. Something that we all ought to lock arms on say 'We all want to have cleaner air,"' said Herbert, who has received significant campaign donations from energy companies in the past three months.

"But what is not talked about as much is, 'What is the cost in proportion to the benefit that comes with a cap and trade piece of legislation?' It's not without controversy."

"It is something that I've been very jaundiced-eyed about, because I believe it raises costs with very little benefit of cleaning up the air. So for me it's kind of a common sense thing," Gov. Herbert said.

"Are we going to make our country uncompetitive with the rest of the world just to get 0.07 percent decrease in emissions over 100 years?" Sen. Orrin Hatch asked rhetorically. "I mean, it doesn't make sense."

A panel at the Capitol Hill meeting was made up mostly of energy-producers, and no one in support of Cap and Trade, which is also known as the Waxman-Markey bill.

A few people did speak up, though they weren't necessarily in favor of the bill. Joe Andrade, a Utahn who says he's concerned about climate change, does feel there is value in taking climate change seriously.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are rising at about 1 percent a year and are predicted to continue increasing without mandatory limits.

Under the bill, the government would limit heat-trapping pollution from factories, refineries and power plants and issue allowances for polluters. Most of the allowances would be given away, but about 15 percent would be auctioned by bid and the proceeds used to defray higher energy costs for lower-income individuals and families.

Hatch likened the allowances to a tax.

"Gov. Herbert and I have been very concerned about how this new tax would affect Utah's consumers," Hatch said. "The various studies tend to confirm that Utahns can expect to feel a major bite, over time, if the Waxman-Markey legislation were to become law."

"Clearly, it's very cumbersome," Andrade said. "But the point is that we as a nation have to do something, otherwise we have no leadership at all on the world stage."

Senator Hatch says he thinks the Cap and Trade bill will have a tough time in the Senate. It barely passed the House under intense pressure on lawmakers who opposed it.


Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and The Associated Press.

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