Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers ex­tend land­mark cli­mate change law

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Page Two - By Jonathan J. Cooper

SACRA­MENTO — Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers voted Mon­day to ex­tend a cli­mate change ini­tia­tive that Gov. Jerry Brown holds up as a model for states and na­tions look­ing to lower car­bon emis­sions.

Brown’s sig­na­ture will add an­other decade of life to the state’s cap-and-trade pro­gram, bol­ster­ing the Demo­cratic gover­nor’s quest to por­tray Cal­i­for­nia as a leader in the fight against cli­mate change at a time when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is pulling back.

“Tonight, Cal­i­for­nia stood tall and once again, boldly con­fronted the ex­is­ten­tial threat of our time,” Brown said in a state­ment af­ter the vote. “Repub­li­cans and Democrats set aside their dif­fer­ences, came to­gether and took coura­geous ac­tion. That’s what good gov­ern­ment looks like.”

Brown por­trays the ini­tia­tive, which would have ended in 2020, as es­sen­tial for the sur­vival of civ­i­liza­tion. Ex­tend­ing it has been one of his high­est pri­or­i­ties as he nears the end of his fourth term, but crit­ics say it fails to ag­gres­sively com­bat pol­lu­tion.

The leg­is­la­tion was fiercely op­posed by some en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists who say it’s too timid for pro­gres­sive Cal­i­for­nia, es­pe­cially those who work to clean up the no­to­ri­ously smoggy air in parts of Los An­ge­les, the San Fran­cisco Bay Area and the agri­cul­tural Cen­tral Val­ley. Con­ser­va­tives also fought the mea­sure, say­ing it will raise costs in an al­ready ex­pen­sive state.

But Brown and Demo­cratic lead­ers were able to cob­ble to­gether the two-thirds sup­port needed in both cham­bers to ex­tend the law through 2030.

Cap and trade puts a limit on car­bon emis­sions and re­quires pol­luters to ob­tain per­mits to re­lease green­house gases. Some per­mits, known as al­lowances, are given away while oth­ers are auc­tioned, gen­er­at­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in rev­enue for the state.

The ex­ten­sion was part of a three-bill pack­age, which passed. One mea­sure aims to im­prove lo­cal air qual­ity, and helped bring some Democrats on board with the cap-and-trade deal. Repub­li­cans, how­ever, fa­vored a third bill that may give them more of a say in how to spend the money col­lected through cap and trade.

Brown sounded an apoc­a­lyp­tic tone in a rare per­sonal ap­peal be­fore a Se­nate com­mit­tee last week, telling law­mak­ers that fail­ing to pass the ex­ten­sion would lead to fires, dis­ease and mass mi­gra­tion, not to men­tion higher costs for food and gaso­line.

Repub­li­cans likened the bill to a tax that will hit Cal­i­for­ni­ans at the gas pump and the gro­cery store. The non­par­ti­san leg­isla­tive an­a­lyst said last year that the ex­ist­ing cap and trade pro­gram ac­counted for an 11-cent-per-gal­lon in­crease in gaso­line prices. The of­fice has not an­a­lyzed the ex­ten­sion pro­posal.

“We could shut down the en­tire state of Cal­i­for­nia and it would have ab­so­lutely no ef­fect on the global cli­mate,” said Sen. Andy Vi­dak, a Repub­li­can from Han­ford in the agri­cul­tural Cen­tral Val­ley. “But what is mea­sure­able is the ef­fect this tax will have on the poor­est of the poor in my district and across Cal­i­for­nia.”

The bill was sup­ported by na­tional en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and busi­ness in­ter­ests, which echo Brown’s re­frain that cap and trade is the most af­ford­able way for Cal­i­for­nia to meet its am­bi­tious cli­mate goals.

State law re­quires Cal­i­for­nia to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions 40 per­cent from 1990 lev­els by 2030 — among the most ag­gres­sive man­dates for car­bon re­duc­tion in the world. Without cap and trade, state reg­u­la­tors will be forced to en­act re­stric­tive man­dates on pol­luters that would be bur­den­some for busi­nesses and sig­nif­i­cantly more ex­pen­sive for con­sumers, Brown said.

The fight over the leg­is­la­tion showed the di­vi­sions be­tween en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists who work na­tion­ally, fo­cus­ing on re­duc­ing global car­bon emis­sions and cre­at­ing a pol­icy that can be repli­cated else­where, and en­vi­ron­men­tal justice ad­vo­cates who work lo­cally.

The lat­ter group said cap and trade al­lows pol­luters to keep foul­ing the air around ma­jor sources of pol­lu­tion like oil re­finer­ies and ob­jected to con­ces­sions Brown made to the oil in­dus­try and other pol­luters in a bid to win sup­port from Repub­li­cans and mod­er­ate Democrats.

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