California Extends Climate Bill, Handing Gov. Jerry Brown a Victory

Source: By ADAM NAGOURNEY, New York Times • Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2017

State Senators Bob Wieckowski, left, and Bob Hertzberg voted in support of a California bill to extend a cap-and-trade program until 2030. They held a 1966 photo of smog over Los Angeles before the vote Monday in Sacramento. Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — California lawmakers voted Monday to extend a cap-and-trade program until 2030, ending a legislative standoff that had threatened a critical component of the state’s pioneering efforts to reduce climate-altering emissions.

The measure was approved by a two-thirds majority in both the Assembly and the Senate, a margin that Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, had insisted lawmakers meet to avoid any potential legal challenges. In the end, eight Republicans voted for the bill, affirming what many described as the need to deal with climate change and differentiating themselves from Republicans in Washington.

Approval of the legislation, which comes as the Legislature prepares to leave Sacramento for its summer recess, ensures that California will continue as a national leader on global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It comes at a time when President Trump has moved to unravel many of the environmental initiatives put in place by President Barack Obama; last month Mr. Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, an international effort to address global warming.

The vote was a major victory for Mr. Brown, who had lobbied intensely for the measure, including testifying before lawmakers last week. Mr. Brown, 79, is entering the final 18 months of his governorship and has made battling climate change a central part of his agenda.

The program imposes a statewide cap on carbon dioxide emissions. Companies are permitted to buy and sell pollution credits, allowing them to exceed the cap. Not incidentally, Mr. Brown is relying on money raised from the program to help finance another of his last-term priorities, construction of a high-speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Democrats hold a two-thirds majority in both the Assembly and the Senate. But in pushing the bill through, Mr. Brown had to navigate moderate Democrats, who were nervous voting for a measure that could raise the cost of gasoline, as well as objections from Republicans, who have often opposed such measures as costly for consumers and businesses.

In addition, one Democratic member of the Assembly was absent this week, putting pressure on Democrats to recruit some Republican support.

While the business community was supportive of the bill, environmentalists — a critical constituency in the state — were split: Some opposed it, arguing that the bill was not tough enough on industry.

The cap-and-trade bill extends a program that otherwise would have ended in 2020. Kevin de Leon, the Democratic president of the Senate, and one of the leaders of the effort to extend the law, expressed satisfaction at the vote.

“Californians overwhelmingly support our efforts to tackle climate change,” he said. “They know it’s an urgent threat and they want us to continue to lead.”

Mr. Brown has become a global advocate for efforts to battle climate change since the election of Mr. Trump. Last month he went to China, where he met President Xi Jinping to discuss the need for cooperation to reduce global emissions. In testifying before the Legislature, he presented California’s cap-and-trade bill as a model for other states and nations.

“This isn’t about some cockamamie legacy,” Mr. Brown posted to Twitter after the testimony. “This isn’t for me, I’m going to be dead. It’s for you & it’s damn real.”