A coalition of environmental groups called on western governors to insist that 100 percent of carbon emissions rights be auctioned by states under a multi-state greenhouse gas reduction plan expected to be unveiled next week. \u201cThey are faced with a choice,\u201d said Rob Sargent, Environment America energy program director, of the governors. \u201cThey can either side with consumers or side with polluters.\u201d \u201cGiving away tens of billions of dollars in pollution allowances is a huge step backward,\u201d said Doug Howell, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation\u2019s western office. The coalition called for states to invest auction proceeds in clean energy projects and research, energy efficiency, \u201clow-carbon transportation infrastructure,\u201d and consumer rebates and assistance programs. By doing so, said Sargent, consumers can wind up with lower energy bills--although energy may cost more per unit--because they will use less. However, if power plant operators and other industries obtain emissions rights for free, there is no guarantee they will invest the money in clean energy and conservation, the groups said. The groups made their call at a September 18 press conference. They released a report--Fair Deal for Consumers or Riding Free for Polluters? The Case for Auctioning Pollution Permits in the Western Climate Initiative--which estimates that western states could raise up to $17 billion a year by auctioning carbon emissions rights. At issue in the upcoming Western Climate Initiative plan--which seeks to establish a carbon cap-and-trade program in a number of western states and Canadian provinces--is whether states should hand out emissions rights to businesses for free or sell them. The western plan is expected to set minimum requirements for state participation in a regional carbon trading market, though not prevent states from setting more stringent standards. Some governors, like Montana\u2019s Brian Schweitzer, have called for 100 percent auction of emissions rights, the groups claimed. Others, however, have avoided taking a position in the face of industries seeking free distribution, according to spokespeople for the environmental coalition. The Western Climate Initiative is expected to call for a 15 percent reduction from greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 in member states and provinces by 2020. After its plan is released in final form, it will be up to individual states and provinces to pass laws and adopt regulations needed to carry out the plan within their jurisdictions. Initiative members include California, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Utah and the Canadian provinces British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.