Friday, February 16, 2007

House committee holds climate change resolution

Jaquet calls for move away from fossil fuels

Express Staff Writer

Rep. Wendy Jaquet

The House Environment, Energy & Technology Committee voted to sit on a resolution that acknowledges human impact on climate change and calls for policies to reduce Idaho's dependence on fossil fuels.

The committee on Wednesday, Feb. 14, debated the proposal, labeled HCR 14, or House Concurrent Resolution 14, whose co-sponsors are Reps. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, Susan Chew, D-Boise, and Sharon Block, R-Twin Falls.

"This is a resolution that says we should be looking at (renewable energy sources) and looking at actions that would get us away from fossil fuels," Jaquet said.

The resolution's current language—it underwent a revision last week following committee members' comments—urges the state to accelerate the development of clean energy sources and fuel-efficient technologies and to support efforts of local communities to reduce greenhouse gases.

One member expressed philosophical support for the resolution but wanted to hear public comment on the state's updated energy plan, the draft of which is set for a hearing next Tuesday.

"There are several recommendations in the energy plan that act in concert with this resolution," said Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, who made the sub-motion to hold the resolution in committee until next week. "I'm anxious, personally because I had a lot of involvement in the energy plan, to see how strong the support is for the energy plan."

Rep. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, urged fellow committee members not to wait.

"The energy plan is not a resolution," she said. "It does not specifically address global warming or climate change. I feel this resolution is very separate."

Jaquet noted that the resolution is one and a half pages, compared with the draft energy plan's 66, making it a more user-friendly document.

"The resolution is more constituent-centric, rather than state-centric or state-focused," she said. "It's more oriented to our local community. It's a guideline and offers an opportunity for our constituents to get their hands around climate change."

Some committee members were skeptical of global warming, posing questions to the resolution's sponsors about the science behind the theory.

Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, wanted more evidence of rising sea levels, and Committee Chair Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, said he was skeptical of studies on melting glaciers, which he saw as incomplete.

Language in the resolution states those conclusions as fact.

The mayors of Pocatello and Boise submitted to the committee letters of support for the resolution.

No Blaine County residents spoke at the hearing Wednesday, but several local residents expressed their thoughts in letters.

"I regard the environment that supports life as my personal property and believe that my elected representatives have an obligation to protect it," wrote Hailey resident Larry Barnes. "We in Idaho must act immediately to reduce global warming gasses and House Concurrent Resolution No. 14 is a good start."

Two Community School students also wrote letters in support of Jaquet's resolution.

"It is our duty to keep Idaho and the world beautiful for my generation and for the generations to come," wrote Zana Davey, 13, of Hailey. "I would love my children to wake up to a bluebird day in the mountains, or ski through two feet of fresh power, and be surrounded by the thousands of precious experiences that we take for granted. I know we can do it. I have complete faith in the human race, but we need to act now because the things we take for granted may disappear before I experience them all, let alone my children."

Grace Guryan, a sixth-grader, echoed that sentiment.

"While global warming may seem like a distant threat, it's happening very fast," she wrote. "It isn't just the environment that global warming affects, it's the economy. I personally can't picture a Sun Valley Christmas without snow."

Students from Boise's Riverstone International School appeared before the committee, describing for members innovations they came up with, such as educational games and pollution control devices.

Jaquet said she introduced the resolution for several reasons: She represents two ski areas, which she said could see major negative impacts from global warming; her farming and ranching constituents are dependent on water, and their livelihoods could be affected by climate change; Wood River Valley students have stepped forward to learn about and address humans' impacts on the environment; and Jaquet is a new grandmother and wants to provide good stewardship of the land for her and others' grandchildren.

Jaquet and her co-sponsors gained the support of committee member Rep. Jerry Shively, D-Pocatello.

"Whether or not we believe in global warming, we should certainly believe that cleaner air is going to be good for us," he said. "I'll support this not on the basis of global warming but on the basis that clean air is going to be better for us."

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