Richardson, Ritter: States lead way on green energy

ASPEN — If the federal government isn’t going to take on domestic energy problems, then it falls to states to do so, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Saturday.

Richardson told an Aspen audience during a joint appearance with Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter that New Mexico hopes to show leadership by being the first state to cap carbon emissions.

“We’re a small state. We’re not as big as Colorado or others, but I want us to be first, and we can be first,” Richardson said at the Aspen Renewable Energy Day Summit.

New Mexico’s Environmental Improvement Board is working on a plan to cap carbon emissions.

“I think we’re going to take this step, and hopefully this will pressure other states to take similar action,” he said.

Richardson, who served as energy secretary under President Bill Clinton, also praised Ritter and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the work they and their states have done on the green energy front.

“If the Congress isn’t going to do it, the states are going to do it,” Richardson said.

Ritter said there still needs to be a national energy policy, and it must be linked with a climate policy. He thinks Colorado’s accomplishments during his four years as governor in pushing conservation and more use of alternative energy and natural gas provide a template to be followed elsewhere.

“I had a lot of people who probably thought it was impossible to do four years ago, but it was not impossible to do. You just have to be ready to fight some big fights,” Ritter said.

Those fights included one with the natural gas industry over new rules designed to better protect the environment, wildlife and public health during drilling and development. But Ritter said those rules made him feel comfortable with legislation he signed this year to make more use of cleaner-burning gas instead of coal in power plants.

That bill led to criticism from the state’s coal industry, which Ritter conceded wasn’t invited to the table to discuss the legislation.

“We didn’t believe that coal was going to be really able to add to the conversation,” said Ritter, who said the industry simply would have sought to study the issue until he leaves office.

Ritter is finishing his first term of office and decided against seeking re-election. Because of term limits, Richardson also will be serving only a few more months as governor.


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