California Carbon-capping bill makes it through key committee

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A bill to extend California’s economywide carbon cap through 2030 passed a key committee last week.

S.B. 32, by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D), passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday by an 11-4 party-line vote, sending it to the Assembly floor. The bill would authorize the state Air Resources Board to write regulations to lower emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

A companion bill, A.B. 197, passed the state Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, as well, by a vote of 5-2. That bill would add two members of the Legislature to ARB as non-voting, ex-officio members.

Pavley, who also authored the original 2006 bill, A.B. 32, that set a target of 1990 emissions levels by 2020, said she hopes the bill will pass this year, despite statements earlier this month from state Senate and Assembly leaders that they might punt it to next year or 2018. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) also raised the possibility of a ballot initiative (ClimateWire, Aug. 5). Negotiations over S.B. 32 also floundered last year, and Pavley is termed out this year.

“Passage of S.B. 32 this year, which can be done by majority vote, will send an unmistakable signal to investors that California is committed to staying the course,” Pavley said in a statement.

A test of investors’ appetites will come tomorrow, when the state holds its quarterly auction of greenhouse gas permits under its cap-and-trade system. The last auction, in May, saw 10 percent of allowances sell, sending expected state revenues plummeting (ClimateWire, May 27).

Environmental groups that have been lobbying lawmakers are gearing up for the fight to intensify in the final weeks of the legislative session. All bills must pass by Aug. 31.

“As the lion’s share of California’s emissions come from the transportation sector, the oil industry is keenly aware that passing S.B. 32 will result in reduced demand for and increased competition with the products they sell (at least so long as they refuse to innovate to make cleaner ones),” Alex Jackson, legal director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s California climate project,¬†wrote¬†Saturday. “Now that the bill is heading to the floor, you can be sure the avalanche of oil money into Assembly districts will follow.”

Waiting until next year could result in a stronger bill, another observer said. Achieving a two-thirds majority would insulate it from legal challenges under Proposition 26, a 2010 constitutional amendment that requires a supermajority vote to raise taxes or fees (ClimateWire, June 16).

“I don’t think they can do it this year,” said John Geesman, a former member of the California Energy Commission and current attorney with the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility. “If they’re not pushing to do it by the end of this month, I think you can take confidence that they each see a better chance next year. If Donald Trump knocks out a few of these Republicans, that could happen.”