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State Net Environmental Law News: California, Washington and Oregon Sign Climate Pact

CA, WA AND OR SIGN CLIMATE PACT: The governors of California, Washington and Oregon signed a pact with the Canadian province of British Columbia last week that commits the four governments to coordinate their policies to battle global climate change. Although the agreement is non-binding, the quartet promised to jointly enact approximately a dozen different policies, including streamlining permits for solar and wind projects, using more lower carbon fuels, better integrating the electric power grid and working to ensure that 10 percent of all cars in the region are emissions-free electric vehicles by 2016.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called the actions "modest steps," but said it was "only a beginning" for what the states will eventually do.

"Next year and the year after and the year after that, this will spread until finally we get a real handle and grasp on what is the world's greatest existential challenge — the stability of our climate, on which we all depend."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said he hopes the agreement will spur action from Congress.

"Congress has ground to a halt because of climate deniers," he said. "I hope this can restart a national conversation, and hopefully action, on climate change."

California and British Columbia already have tougher climate change policies in place. California is in the process of implementing a cap-and-trade program and BC has had a carbon tax since 2008. Washington and Oregon are considering both options. Business groups in both states have expressed concerns about the impact of such proposals.

News of the agreement was met with positive reaction from business groups in California, where Shelly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the AB 32 Implementation Group, a business organization that opposed the 2006 law that enacted a wide range of pollution controls in the Golden State, including the cap-and-trade program, said "we have always believed that we need a broad market that includes not only other states but other countries, in order for it to function efficiently." (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, LOS ANGELES TIMES)

ENVIRONMENT: The U.S. House of Representatives approves HR 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRDA) of 2013, a bill that would fund billions of dollars in water infrastructure projects around the country. The measure, which is the first approved WRDA since 2007, has returned to the Senate (WASHINGTON POST, STATE NET). • The MICHIGAN Department of Environmental Quality announces proposed rule changes that would require additional reporting and monitoring of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Proposed rules include requiring drillers to disclose information on chemical additives used in fracking fluid on a web-based registry and to collect baseline samples from up to 10 water supply wells within a quarter mile of the site before drilling. The new rules must now go through a public review process and receive approval from the legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (MLIVE.COM).

Once around the statehouse lightly

AND SO IT BEGINS: The Alaska Legislative Council made a historic decision last week that may well determine their success or failure for the foreseeable future. Was it a huge decision about oil production or a new pipeline? Saving endangered polar bears? Bringing back Northern Exposure? Nope — bigger than any of those. As the Anchorage Daily News reports, the Council gave lawmakers, staffers, and others using legislative computers the okay to use that equipment to access Facebook. Oh boy, and you think time gets wasted under the dome now.

AT LEAST IT WASN'T YOGURT: The federal government may have been shuttered for 16 days, but that doesn't mean at least some valuable work wasn't getting done. As the Washington Post reports, workers left in the Environmental Protection Agency's Chicago field office used the time to clean up the joint, including clearing out some leftovers from the office fridges. And what was the most left over leftover of all? A can of Campbell's Soup dated 1997! Workers returning after the shutdown ended were greeted with a welcome back message from EPA chief Gina McCarthy, who informed them of the effort and asked them to be a bit more diligent in cleaning up after themselves going forward.

— Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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