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Bill would fund Nebraska climate change study

Posted at 7:00 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 20:00:19-05

LINCOLN, Neb — Eight years ago, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln created a climate change study at the behest of the Nebraska Legislature.

Once the report was out, a plan was never developed.

Now, there’s a push for a new, updated study that would be the precipice for the state creating a climate change action plan. Senator John Cavanaugh, who represents midtown Omaha, said the state’s climate is changing and it’s on the government to determine the next steps.

“This is not a question of whether this is happening, the question is what are we going to do about it,” said Cavanaugh.

He's pushing a bill that would create a climate change study and action plan. If the bill is passed the study would be done by UNL and include a baseline of the state’s carbon footprint, potential impacts of climate change, how it would affect the private sector and measurable goals.

After that, it would be up to the legislature to decide next steps.

“This is not going to be some kind of mandate where we are stuck with the outcome of this study. It would just say, here are your options, these are our recommendations, this is how you would implement it and these are the benefits of doing these things,” said Cavanaugh.

The study would also look at how the state can take advantage of climate change. So it would also include opportunities presented for mitigation efforts and chances for the state to increase its resilience to climate change.

“The word regulation itself does not appear, it’s not in the bill, not once. You know what word appears six times, opportunities,” said Jesse Starita, supporter of the bill.

The study would cost a quarter million dollars and come from a fund paid for by the petroleum industry, called the Petroleum Release Remedial Action Collection Fund.

That's where the push back came.

“To take money out of that fund, which is the industry taking care of the industry’s problems. Would be a huge, huge mistake,” said Mark Whitehead, who spoke for the Nebraska Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.

Cavanaugh told the Natural Resources Committee he’s open to different ways to fund the bill.

Senator Mike Moser of Columbus suggested possibly using lottery funds saying he doesn’t want it to be taxpayer funded.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to take tax money to study it. Because I don’t think even if we find something, I seriously question whether anybody is going to want to live a different life,” said Moser.

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