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States Pick up the Ball

States Pick Up the Ball Dropped By the Federal Government

I used to think I was largely against states’ rights, because I associated it with things like the “right” to keep schools segregated and the “right” to discriminate against African Americans. I thought that, by and large, the federal government was more trustworthy – and just had higher levels of expertise – than many state governments.

But lately that kind of assessment has been flipped on its head – and no more so than with the issue of climate change. The current federal government is, to put it charitably, out to lunch when it comes to the need for climate action (let alone the urgent need). One might go so far as to suggest that some in Congress act as if they are “owned” by the fossil fuel industry.

But some states are really stepping up to the plate. While the president is calling climate change a hoax and calling for propping up the coal industry (you cannot make this stuff up), Washington State’s governor Jay Inslee (D) recently proposed a carbon tax. It’s by no means a done deal, but we’re hoping it’s a harbinger of things to come. And Washington would not be the first state to address climate change. California has a cap and trade program that auctions off allowances to emit carbon, as does a consortium of Northeastern states, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – which includes my own beloved state of Maryland. Then there’s the U.S. Climate Alliance, which includes California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington – and now Maryland! – that has vowed to push ahead for climate action.

Climate change is a problem that is so large that it really, clearly warrants a federal response – a strong federal response. But the current administration and its complicit Congress have dropped the ball (and are kicking it in the wrong direction). Kudos to the states that have picked it up! I’m proud that Maryland is one of them!

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