Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Georgetown Law celebrated the opening of its Climate Resource Center on Monday with an event featuring several green luminaries. Govs. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.) and Chris Gregoire (D-Wash.), as well as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Council on Environmental Quality chief Nancy Sutley were on hand for the inauguration of the center, created to help connect the innovative work states have been doing to deal with climate change with the federal government.

The governors were in town for the National Governor’s Association meeting, where they’d met with both President Obama and his team to talk energy policy. Both offered high praise to the Obama team for signaling that they intend to cooperate with states on climate policy. “We’ve been trying to fill the void in the states,” said Gregoire, “It has been a 180 coming back this year to the governor’s meeting and wanting to talk about climate change … This time it’s a welcome mat out – what can we do, how fast can we do it.”

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Joining them at the Saturday meeting with Obama were governors Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.), David Paterson (D-N.Y.), Charlie Crist (R-Fla.), Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), Jim Douglas (D-Vt.), Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.), Ted Kulongoski (D-Ore.), Martin O’Malley (D-Md.), Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), and Bill Ritter (D-Colo.).

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Of course, the buzz surrounding Sebelius right now is whether or not she’ll be leaving Kansas to join the Obama administration as Secretary of Health and Human Services. “I’m going home tomorrow and I’m going to keep fighting some Kansas battles,” she said when prodded about it after the event.

And those battles back home do indeed continue, as pro-coal legislators are once again trying to win approval for two coal-fired power plants that the governor has not thrice rejected. Their latest attempt to get the plants approved lumps the power plants in with some greenish initiatives. “They combined some of the green energy initiatives that we had suggested with the statewide RPS [Renewable Portfolio Standard] and energy efficiency standards, watered those down a little bit so they’re more like a muddy brown, they’re not quite green,” Sebelius told Grist.

They’re also seeking to take away the regulatory power of the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment,Rod Bremby, who first reject the permit request for the two plants on the basis of their carbon dioxide emissions.

Sebelius said that she’s confident that more and more state legislators are coming over to the side of her administration in his battle. “I think actually we’re gaining some support of legislators who might have voted against us last year, but I think might be with us,” she said. “But we seem to be fighting the same battles over again.”

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As for what she’d like to see from the Obama administration to help bolster her and other governors who are on a quest for clean energy, she ticked off a federal renewable standard, a long-term extension of the production tax credit for renewables, a price on carbon, and more investment in improved transmission infrastructure.

Sebelius said she got good signals in the governors’ meetings with Obama, Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, White House energy adviser Carol Browner, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Saturday. “In just the brief time we had to spend together, I can tell you it’s a brand new world. We have great partners in moving in a brand new direction,” said Sebelius.