Gov. Janet Napolitano is defending her decision to bypass the Legislature and instead impose new carbon dioxide emission standards for vehicles sold in Arizona.
Napolitano said Friday the changes she wants certainly could go to the Legislature. But she said state law also backs her power to simply direct Steve Owens, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, to adopt a rule doing the same thing.
“I’m very respectful of the Legislature,” she said. “But we can also do it by rule. We can do it now. We can do it more quickly.”
Rep. Ray Barnes, R-Phoenix, acknowledged action by executive order and rule may be quicker than amending state law. But Barnes, who chairs the House Environment Committee, said he doubts Napolitano actually has legal authority to impose new standards absent legislative blessing.
Repeated requests Friday to both the governor’s office and DEQ asking for the specific legal authority went unanswered.
Senate Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, said even if the law allows the governor to do what she wants, such a major change in state policy — one that will result in more expensive cars and trucks — should be debated and reviewed by the elected representatives of Arizona voters.
Napolitano announced last year she wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Arizona back to year 2000 levels by 2020. Ultimately, she wants them at half that figure by 2040.
To reach that goal, the governor directed state agencies to review and take certain actions. For example, the state Department of Administration was told to buy only vehicles that meet certain greenhouse gas emissions standards.
But the order also started the state down the path of following the lead of the California Air Resources Board, which has directed that all manufacturers reduce greenhouse gas emissions of their vehicles by an average of 30 percent by 2016.
That agency, however, was acting under authority specifically granted to it by California lawmakers in 2002.
Napolitano said her plans to proceed without seeking approval of lawmakers here have been “communicated to the Legislature.”