Climate zone: Western states set an example on pollution

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Leaders of California, Oregon and Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia agreed in San Francisco Monday to coordinate their efforts on dealing with the problem of climate change.

Their plans, which would affect 53 million people and a regional economy of $2.8 trillion, would include raising taxes on greenhouse gas pollution, encouraging zero-emission vehicles and promoting the use of cleaner fuels in public and private transportation. Other actions they pledged were streamlining permits for solar and wind projects, supporting more research on ocean acidification and stepping up government purchases of electric vehicles.

America's West Coast states, starting with California, have shown imagination in the past in tackling problems that plague the whole country, and they have sometimes taken more forward-looking approaches than the federal government or governments of more conservative states to the east.

One example is California's elimination in 2010 of lawmakers' authority over redistricting, the process of redesigning state legislative and congressional seat maps according to population shifts. Now an independent citizens' commission draws the districts, leading to more turnover in representation. Pennsylvania, like most states, leaves redistricting in the hands of politicians.

Similarly progressive steps are needed in response to climate change. The administration of President Barack Obama has had almost no success in getting Congress to pass such legislation. His resort has been to issue executive orders and take action through the Environmental Protection Agency.

In such a national political context, the West Coast states, in exemplary cooperation with a Canadian province, are leading the way for the United States in tackling a major issue. They should be strongly commended and emulated for their imagination, farsightedness and courage.

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