Virginia governor pushes lagging South to address greenhouse gas pollution

Fresh from his election as chair of the Southern Governors Association, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine kicked off a year-long effort this week aimed at encouraging his regional colleagues to take a more active role in reducing greenhouse gas pollution linked to climate disruption, reports.

Kaine's effort comes after governors' groups in the Northeast, West and Midwest have already launched efforts to limit greenhouse gas pollution. An agreement among 10 states in the Northeast, for example, will begin charging power plants for CO2 emissions starting in January. A coalition of seven Western states has crafted a broader agreement that would apply to all sources of greenhouse gas pollution, while a group of six Midwestern states is working on a similar plan. Six individual states -- none in the South -- have also placed comprehensive limits on CO2 emissions.

These state and regional initiatives come as the federal government has failed to take effective action to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. The bipartisan Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act to create a carbon cap-and-trade system failed in the U.S. Senate in June.

But not everyone thinks these initiatives are a good idea, according to Stateline:

At a February meeting of U.S. governors, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) called the idea "stupid."

"I can tell you right now, I'm against taxing carbon. People in my state pay more for gasoline right now than we want them to pay, and their electric bills are higher than we want them to be," Barbour said then.

The solutions embraced to date by the regional governors' groups do not involve actual carbon taxes, which would directly levy carbon-containing fuels at the wholesale level. Instead, these are all cap-and-trade programs involving market-based emissions trading systems.

Barbour is not alone in opposing state and regional efforts to address climate disruption: Duke Energy, the North Carolina-based company currently building a controversial new coal-fired power plant near Charlotte, also opposes them. Duke spokesperson Tom Williams told Stateline that his company wants "a national program to deal with a worldwide issue."

However, Duke Energy opposed Lieberman-Warner, which was killed by Senate Republicans in June over concerns that it would hurt the economy. According to an analysis by Clean Air Watch (pdf), Duke objected to the bill because its method of distributing emissions allowances did not give any away for free to big polluters like Duke based on their proportional share of historic CO2 emissions.

Looks like Kaine has his work cut out for him.