We predicted earlier this year that Gov. Janet Napolitano was risking serious political backlash for aggressively pursuing her agenda against greenhouse gas emissions without support of the Arizona Legislature. That day has arrived as key lawmakers have linked the future of the state’s environmental protection agency to stopping Napolitano’s usurpation of power.
Unable to get lawmakers to adopt any measures intended to slow climate change, Napolitano’s administration has inflated its authority to unilaterally impose new emission standards on auto manufacturers. The governor also has signed an interstate agreement called the Western Climate Initiative that would adopt sweeping regulations on electric utilities and other major industries to “cap and trade” their production of carbon dioxide and other gases.
The Republican-controlled Legislature tried last year to compel Napolitano to follow the legislative process before such changes could go into effect. But those lawmakers could only fume in frustration as they lacked enough votes to override the governor’s veto.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency charged with carrying out the climate change agenda, is undergoing a typical “sunset” review and a state statute authorizing ADEQ’s existence will expire next year unless the Legislature extends it. Capitol Media Services reported in Friday’s Tribune that a legislative committee has recommended ADEQ be renewed only if the governor’s prior actions are rescinded.
Napolitano would appear to be trapped, as no one wants to see ADEQ disappear and have an array of environmental responsibilities revert to distant federal regulators. Next year’s Legislature will have a larger number of conservative Republicans, leaving the governor little room to finesse this issue. However, she might not need to pursue this agenda any longer. The election of Barack Obama as president and more Democrats to Congress is likely to bring about significant changes in national policies on climate change.
Napolitano might easily concede to wishes of legislative Republicans with the expectation that an Obama administration will implement similar directives instead.