There is no more dangerous an individual than an ambitious lame duck Governor like Colorado’s Bill Ritter or New Mexico’s Bill Richardson. With nothing to lose politically, such executives are free to entrench unpopular policies via the regulatory state. Of course, NO ONE understands the impossibly arcane mechanics of the regulatory bureaucracy, so these Governors’ insidious policies aren’t noticed until they are safely out of office.
The Clean Air Clean Jobs Act is the apotheosis of this technique. As is explained here, the Ritter administration created the impetus for this fuel switching legislation by grossly exaggerating the threats posed by “reasonably foreseeable” federal air quality regulations. In a nutshell, the Ritter administration argued that fuel switching is a necessary evil because the EPA was about to drop the hammer on coal.
While the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was ringing a false alarm about a pending coal crackdown, Ritter’s political shop was holding exclusive negotiations to craft the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act. All parties that stood to gain were invited; the losers were left out. To be sure, the legislation puts Xcel ratepayers on the hook for a mountain of unnecessary costs, but by the time the bill is due, Governor Ritter will be long gone.
Ritter frequently crows that HB 1365 is a “template” for the country, and he’s right (unfortunately). New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson certainly took notice. On November 2, the Richardson administration’s committed New Mexico to a regional cap-and-trade, using authority from two laws enacted in 1978. The administration acted on the same day that Governor-elect Susana Martinez and Congressman-elect Steve Pearce won their respective elections by campaigning against cap-and-trade policies. So it would appear that the Governor is circumventing his constituents’ will.
William Yeatman is an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank based in Washington, D.C.