Governor Brown Signs Landmark Climate Change Legislation

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Sep 8, 2016 (SACRAMENTO) Governor Edmund Brown has signed two bills that continue California’s national leadership. These are Senate Bill 32 and Assembly Bill 197. This will also allow the legislature to have more of a regulatory role e California Air Control Board, and AB 197 also expands the already ground breaking green house gas emission cuts from AB 32 signed in 2006, to one that is even more ground breaking.

AB 32 said that we should cut down green house gas emissions by 20 percent of 1990 emissions by 2020. AB 197 extends those goals to 40 percent by 2030. The Bill states: “This bill would require the state board to ensure that statewide greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to 40% below the 1990 level by 2030.”

AB 197 allows for more oversight of the Air Control Board by the legislature. It does this:

This bill would add 2 Members of the Legislature to the state board as ex officio, nonvoting members. The bill would provide that the voting members of the state board are appointed for staggered 6-year terms and upon expiration of the term of office of a voting member, the appointing authority may reappoint that member to a new term of office, subject to specified requirements. The bill would require the state board to establish the initial staggered terms. The bill would create the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies consisting of at least 3 Members of the Senate and at least 3 Members of the Assembly and would require the committee to ascertain facts and make recommendations to the Legislature and to the houses of the Legislature concerning the state’s programs, policies, and investments related to climate change, as specified.

In effect it adds more responsibility in oversight and will hopefully reduce some of the industry lobbying on the Air Control Board. It also will force something that activists will definitely like, as well as policy wonks.

This bill would require the state board to make available, and update at least annually, on its Internet Web site the emissions of greenhouse gases, criteria pollutants, and toxic air contaminants for each facility that reports to the state board and air districts. The bill would require the state board, at least once a year at a hearing of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies, to present an informational report on the reported emissions of greenhouse gases, criteria pollutants, and toxic air contaminants from all sectors covered by the scoping plan, as specified.

It reflects a fight though between moderate democrats and more liberal democrats. The party in California is somewhat splintered between those two factions. Republicans have a small voice in the state, if at all. So this also reflects a fight between coastal, generally speaking more liberal democrats, and inland more conservative democrats.

This also lays the ground work for the next big fight, and this is cap and trade, which California also adopted.

Cap and Trade allows a company that pollutes to buy credits, from another company that will reduce their own output. In essence it reduces green gas emissions overall, but it concentrates the pollution in certain areas. This has been the main criticism from social justice environmentalists who see this as a way to allow business to continue to pollute in for example, poor neighborhoods of color. One example of this would be Barrio Logan.

There are two issues that the Cap and Trade program face. One is ethical. If you allow a company to buy credits but continue to pollute, you will in effect create a set of winers and losers environmentally, and also create clusters of higher asthma rates for example. The other is legal. The legislation was passed by a majority of the legislature, but critics, such as the Chamber, believe it to be a tax, an illegal tax, since that requires a two thirds majority vote. There is an expectation that the Governor will even place this program on the ballot in 2018 in order to save it.

With the signatures of AB 197 and SB 32 we are seeing an expansion of the efforts started by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he signed AB 32. The dire consequences promised back then, did not occur. Instead, we have seen an expansion of green technologies and the growth of a green economy.

Are there costs to this? Yes, but they are minimal, and are offset by the benefits and the reduction in the adaptation needs for a hotter world.

 

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