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(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says state leaders are more obstacle than help in trying to clean up polluted Wasatch Front air. He says Utah should emulate the federal EPA in trying to move the ball on the issue. In this file photo, Becker, center, talks with his Chief of Staff David Everitt as Executive Assistant Amy Gale stands nearby.
Becker named to White House climate panel

First Published Nov 01 2013 01:00 pm • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:37 pm

Washington • President Barack Obama has tapped Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker to join a team of governors, city officials and tribal leaders that will develop a plan to help the federal government respond to the effects of climate change.

The move, announced Friday, fulfills a promise Obama made in June, when he said he would create "a task force on climate preparedness and resilience."

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Becker, a vice president of the National League of Cities, is one of 26 members of the group that also includes eight governors such as California’s Jerry Brown and Washington’s Jay Inslee.

"It’s an opportunity for us to help shape federal policy, but also how the federal government is working with local communities," said Becker, who hopes to pick up tips from other cities and states.

Group members will develop recommendations on ways to reduce bureaucracy in federal grant and loan programs that respond to heat waves, droughts, wildfires and other extreme weather phenomena. They will also work to develop tools to help states and local governments prepare for and respond to climate change.

Becker said that the topics could range from disaster response to federal support of efforts to reduce carbon emissions in cities and states through urban planning and building retrofitting.

The task force is expected to hold four meetings between December and next July, with the hope of delivering its recommendations within the next year. It will disband a few months after that.

Also on Friday, the president signed an executive order asking federal agencies to review their policies to help cities and towns rebuild after natural disasters and to protect natural resources from those weather events.

The president has tried to use the power of his office to respond to the warming of the planet because any sort of legislative effort has stalled in Congress, primarily because a number of Republicans, such as Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, are skeptical of the science behind claims of climate change.

These skeptics believe that Democrats are pushing these policies for political and not scientific reasons, though the scientific community is broadly in agreement that human-produced carbon-dioxide emissions are in part to blame for more erratic weather patterns.

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Twitter: @mattcanham

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