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Western initiative sets up emissions-trading plan

Sep 23, 2008 - The Associated Press

Seven Western states and four Canadian provinces on Tuesday proposed a comprehensive program to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, manufacturers and vehicles.

The Western Climate Initiative would establish a regional market to trade carbon emissions and covers more polluters than other regional plans adopted in the United States and Canada.

The plan sets the parameters for a so-called cap-and-trade program designed to help cut the region's emissions below 2005 levels by 2020 while keeping costs down for those affected.

The idea is to allow industries that emit greenhouse gases to buy and sell credits for their emissions. Businesses that cannot cut their emissions enough can buy the right to pollute from other, cleaner companies.

The plan was drafted by Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, and the four Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec which have joined the program in the last 18 months.

Each state and province must create their own trading scheme that complies with the regional guidelines in order to participate in the market.

Supporters say the program will combat global warming, spur green technologies, clean up the region's energy supplies and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Under the plan, utilities and industries could begin trading on Jan. 1, 2012, but transportation and heating fuels would have until 2015.

When fully implemented, the market would cover nearly 90 percent of the region's emissions, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency.