Monday, June 25, 2018

California Democrats Move to Extend Cap-and-Trade

By Jason Fordney

California Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers on Monday unveiled a legislative package intended to combat air pollution, including a measure to extend the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program by another 10 years.

california cap-and-trade

Brown | State of California

The proposed legislation modifies and renews the cap-and-trade program, which is due to expire in 2020. The state’s Supreme Court recently declined to review a court challenge against the initiative launched by business groups. (See California High Court Upholds Cap-and-Trade.)

The measures are included in amendments to two bills: AB-617, introduced by State Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Garcia and Miguel Santiago, and AB-398, sponsored by Eduardo Garcia. It is not clear when a vote might be taken, but Brown’s office has indicated he wants to move quickly.

The program mandates that large industrial facilities such as oil refineries upgrade emissions equipment by December 2023, and it increases penalties for pollution. It also requires pollution reductions from mobile and stationary sources, and provides for neighborhood air monitoring — an attempt to placate environmental justice groups seeking to improve conditions in low-income areas.

The cap-and-trade program will help the state meet its goal of reducing GHG emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, Brown’s office said in a statement.

california cap-and-trade

The proposed legislation would mandate that California oil refineries upgrade their emissions controls and require pollution reductions from mobile and stationary sources. | photo courtesy of Inhabitat

The new package is “the product of weeks of discussions between the administration and legislative leaders with Republican and Democratic legislators, environmental justice advocates, environmental groups, utilities, industry and labor representatives, economists, agricultural and business organizations, faith leaders and local government officials,” the statement said.

The measure “extends the program by 10 years in the most cost-effective way possible,” according to Brown. It will ensure that carbon pollution will decrease as the emissions cap declines and reduces use of out-of-state carbon offsets, while decreasing free carbon allowances by more than 40% by 2030, he said.

Under the cap-and-trade program, large emitters of greenhouse gases must purchase emissions credits at the California Air Resource Board’s quarterly auctions to cover emissions not accounted for with free credits. Extending the program would keep auction proceeds flowing to environmental initiatives around the state, the governor’s office said.

“To date, these investments have preserved and restored tens of thousands of acres of open space, helped plant thousands of new trees, funded 30,000 energy-efficiency improvements in homes, expanded affordable housing, boosted public transit and helped over 100,000 Californians purchase zero-emission vehicles,” the office said.

Brown said he will continue to pursue climate change policies despite President Trump’s pledge to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, which Trump says is unfair to the U.S. Brown recently announced that California will host global leaders in September 2018 for a Global Climate Action Summit to support the agreement.

Brown on Wednesday also announced the “America’s Pledge” program with businessman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The governor’s office described the program as “a new initiative to compile and quantify the actions of states, cities and businesses in the United States to drive down their greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.” The initiative will produce a report on aggregate climate change commitments by states, cities, business and educational institutions, and a “roadmap for future climate change ambition.”