Lawmakers extend cap and trade, tout climate leadership

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News reporter

 

California's Legislature passed a 10-year extension of the state's cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions with a robust, bipartisan two-thirds vote, a move leaders hailed as evidence that the Golden State will lead on climate change.

"Tonight, California stood tall and once again, boldly confronted the existential threat of our time," Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said in a statement after yesterday's vote. "Republicans and Democrats set aside their differences, came together and took courageous action. That's what good government looks like."

Lawmakers approved A.B. 398, which extends cap and trade through 2030, and partner measure A.B. 617, which sets up rules aimed at cutting local pollution. They also passed A.C.A. 1, a constitutional amendment. Starting in 2024, the Legislature have a say in how all program revenues are spent.

It comes as the Golden State looks to enact the nation's most aggressive climate goal. California under S.B. 32 — passed last year — must cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990's level by 2030.

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Some supporters of the bills approved yesterday said that California needed to act as a signal to the rest of the country and the world. That's essential, they said, because President Trump has rejected policies and partnerships aimed at limiting warming.

"When you look at what's happening in the country and world right now, where we have the president pulling us out of the Paris accord, and the United States commitment to the climate policy just collapsing, and the United States completely losing leadership, ceding it to other countries," said state Sen. Scott Wiener (D), "people around the world are looking to California for leadership, and we need to provide leadership."

Others criticized that the votes happened quickly, with the bills just released last week and limited hearings held. Some opponents said that the measures were rammed through partly in an effort to shore up an August cap-and-trade auction. Others suggested Brown wants to get it done before he leaves office in 2018.

State Sen. Jeff Stone (R) said the measures will raise prices, especially gas prices, and hurt people who must drive long distances to work.

"This package of bills is nothing more than a huge tax increase on California's working families who will now have to choose between gasoline and food while making the Coastal elites who fly around the world in their private jets talking about global warming feel good about themselves," Stone said in a statement. "These bills were rushed through the Legislature today because the Democrats in charge of Sacramento need the tax revenue to pay for the Governor's Choo-Choo-Train to nowhere and for more social programs."

The state's planned high-speed rail line to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, which Brown supports, has received about one-quarter of all auction revenues to date because of an earlier deal between the governor and lawmakers.

Assemblyman Steven Choi (R), who opposed A.B. 398, said that "cap and trade expires in 2020. There is simply no urgency to ram this bill through the Legislature other than to provide a rubber stamp for the governor's extreme left-wing agenda."

Others described the need for the cap-and-trade extension as urgent. Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D), a former physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said nuclear weapons as a potential source of world destruction once kept him awake at night. He now frets over global warming. He warned that migration from Syria and the political controversy it has spawned are just a taste of what could happen in the years ahead.

"If we get uncontrolled global warming, two-thirds of Bangladesh will be underwater. The U.S. will lose most of its coastal cities," Quirk said during floor debate. "This is the most important vote you will take."