The Public Policy

Commandeered by Climate Alarmists

Did a few Western governors and their staffs pull a fast one on other members of the Western Governors Association in the name of accelerated cap and trade?

By 6.19.09

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Did the chief executives of a few Western states hijack the staff and resources of their regional coalition, against the will of most of their fellow governors, all to promote their vision for a regional cap-and-trade agreement?

It sure looks that way. Based upon documents I obtained from Patrick Cummins, program director for climate change and air quality at the Western Governors Association, it appears that a few governors and WGA staff violated rules (which require unanimous consent by its member governors) in devoting resources and staff time to the Western Climate Initiative. WCI seeks to create a regional agreement among its member states to cap greenhouse gas emissions, in order to avert what they believe to be a pending global warming catastrophe.

I shared the documents I obtained with the National Taxpayers Union, which sent a letter of concern to (now outgoing) WGA chairman Jon Huntsman Jr. , governor of Utah:

No doubt you agree that, as an organization that receives tax dollars from both state and federal sources, WGA has a responsibility to operate with full transparency and public disclosure in terms of its fiscal activities, where it receives its funding and how and where it spends those funds. We also know that WGA functions on the basis of consensus among its member states, so that moneys provided to WGA by one or several states do not subsidize operations or programs that their governors oppose.

Seven states agreed to work as WGA partners, leaving the majority of WGA states not formally supporting the involvement of WGA in the WCI process. According to information we have received, no resolution was adopted by WGA endorsing WCI or authorizing WGA to provide any support to the WCI process. Given the opposition by many Governors to having any of their taxpayer-backed contributions to be used to subsidize the operations of the WCI, this is understandable.</em>

That is why we were surprised to review documents recently released by WGA that indicate deep and wide-ranging involvement by WGA staff in the WCI.

Those documents are posted at Climate Strategies Watch, and upon review you realize that WGA has total management control of WCI. As NTU stated in its letter, "It is difficult to see how tax dollars from non-WCI states did not subsidize this process."

In a conversation I had with Cummins, he explained that some funds came from private resources for WCI. But that doesn't explain whether or not they fully covered WCI, nor does it account for how much of his (and other WGA staff) time was diverted to WCI efforts. It also doesn't explain why WGA secretly undertook the project -- even signing contracts with consultants for the WCI project -- without obtaining approval from its member governors.

Several documents posted at the WGA and WCI websites show that five governors -- Democrat Janet Napolitano in Arizona (now Homeland Security Secretary); Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in California; Democrat Bill Richardson in New Mexico; Democrat Ted Kulongoski in Oregon; and Democrat Chris Gregoire in Washington -- formed WCI (.pdf) (Montana and Utah joined later) in February 2007 with no mention of WGA involvement or approval. The five signed an agreement committing their states to the WCI effort, but they make no more than a passing reference to how WGA resolved that "action is needed" on climate change.

Further evidence that everything was not on the up-and-up: WGA's annual reports in 2007 and  2008 (both.pdfs) do not mention its extensive involvement with WCI, save a very passive reference in 2008. The same reports identify Cummins, who manages WCI (and was my contact for the records I requested), as project manager of its Western Regional Air Partnership project and its air quality initiative.

What were they trying to hide?

While the five global warming alarmist governors hijacked WGA for their own agenda, at least 10 other member governors were kept in the dark. As NTU wrote:

These facts raise serious questions about the use of taxpayer funds in this effort from states that did not agree to partner in the WCI project – including Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Idaho, Nevada and Alaska. In fact, it is difficult to see how this was not the case, given the extent to which WGA time, staff and resources were spent to support the WCI.

At least one unidentified WGA governor, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal's John Fund before this week's annual meeting, expressed dismay :

One governor I spoke with points out that the WGA is supposed to operate on a consensus basis. He says the WGA's involvement in planning climate change proposals is serious overreach. "The dues states give WGA come from tax money and I was surprised to learn just how much the WGA seems to be getting ahead of many of the states on carbon regulation," he told me.

The secrecy with which the five WCI governors and the WGA officials like Cummins operated highlights how they have defied the will of the majority of the member governors, and likely improperly used the taxpayer funds of the states they represent. Let's hope NTU gets a full accounting, and that governors regain control of an organization that appears to have been overtaken by environmental activists and a few WGA members who have done their dirty work.

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About the Author

Paul Chesser publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, a news aggregator for North Carolina, and is a contributor of articles, research and investigative reports for both national and state-level free-market think tanks.