Governors Working Together On Environmental Challenges Is Nothing New

As we reported yesterday, the Governors in several regions of the country have teamed up to fight the coronavirus within their respective areas — but regional agreements between Governors are nothing new in the world of conservation and the environment because pollution, just like a virus, does not respect state boundaries.  The most successful examples include the Acid Rain Trading Program in the Northeast, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the Regional Fishery Management Councils, the Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council), the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, and the Colorado River Minute 323 Agreement, among others.

Why This Matters:  Governors working together to fight the coronavirus and its impacts through regional cooperation arrangements may prove to be a way that President Trump fixes the government by breaking it.  Regional arrangements have previously proved effective in overcoming even deep-seated political opposition when cooperation was the only way to solve an urgent problem — like an oil spill or a water shortage.  And the federal government has not always played a lead role in these efforts either.  More of this kind of regional cooperation may be warranted in dealing with climate change in the future because those impacts may be more localized and specific to ecosystems or natural boundaries than state or even national borders.

Some Examples:

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative:  “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.”  Virginia is joining imminently.

Regional Fisheries Management Councils: “The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the main law that governs fishing in U.S. federal waters, ranging from 3 to 200 miles offshore. First passed in 1976, the MSA established a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and created eight regional fishery management councils to manage our nation’s marine fishery resources. This unprecedented management system gives fishery managers the flexibility to use local level input to develop management strategies appropriate for each region’s unique fisheries, challenges, and opportunities.”

Northeast Regional Ocean Council: “The Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) is a state and federal partnership that facilitates the New England states, federal agencies, regional organizations, and other interested regional groups in addressing ocean and coastal issues that benefit from a regional response. It is NROC’s mission to provide a voluntary forum for New England states and federal partners to coordinate and collaborate on regional approaches to support balanced uses and conservation of the Northeast region’s ocean and coastal resources.”

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council: The RESTORE Act established a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund (Trust Fund), which received 80 percent of the civil and administrative Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Trust Fund supports five restoration components aimed at restoring the long-term health of the valuable natural ecosystems and economy of the Gulf Coast region. Thirty percent of the money directed to the Trust Fund is managed by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council) to implement ecosystem restoration under a Comprehensive Plan, developed by the Council with input from the public, to restore the ecosystem and the economy of the Gulf Coast Region.

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