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Texas' three natural resource commissioners, all appointees of Gov. George W. Bush, said yesterday that global warming was a serious problem and that the state would explore ways to cut its emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
The decision, although just a tentative move toward action, was praised by some private environmental groups. They said it could signal a shift in the global-warming stance of Mr. Bush, who so far has said that although earth's climate appears to be warming, more research must be done to determine whether human activities are the cause.
Asked about the prospect of any such shift, Michael Jones, a spokesman for the governor's office, would say only that the commission's action "is a step in the right direction to help us get the information we need to address this issue."
International negotiations on cutting greenhouse gases are to resume this fall, and emission reductions are an issue on which Mr. Bush and his presidential campaign opponent, Vice President Al Gore, have sharply differed. Mr. Gore has pushed for aggressive action to cut emissions, while Mr. Bush has cautioned against haste.
The decision yesterday in Texas, which produces far more greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels than any other state, was the response by the Natural Resource Conservation Commission to a petition filed last month by private environmental groups asking the state to create an emission-cutting plan.
Twenty-five states already have such plans, or are drafting them, and 35 compile annual tallies of greenhouse gas emissions. But in Texas, where it has been almost a decade since the Legislature authorized the commission to write rules governing such gases, nothing even preliminary has resulted until now.
For the moment, the commission is planning only a thorough review of the state's data on emissions, a review of scientific research on the problem and an appraisal of other states' climate programs. Some conservative groups opposed to big emissions cuts pointed out happily that the agency was essentially calling for more research and putting off any commitment to cuts until late next year at the earliest.
Nonetheless Peggy Venable, the director of one such group, Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, lamented what she described as pressure on the agency stemming largely from election-year politics.