California has the legal right to move ahead with preparations for cap and trade after all, according to an appellate court decision. An earlier ruling had required regulators to halt work pending further review, after environmental justice groups brought suit against the Air Resources Board (ARB) over its plans for carbon trading.
Caroline Farrell of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, one of organizations involved in the suit, said she was disappointed by the decision, handed down late Friday.
“We feel like this is a real setback in terms of getting the state to really take advantage of the opportunity to look at alternatives and to really achieve true greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” she said.
Environmental justice groups who brought the suit say that cap and trade would not protect low-income areas and communities of color from localized pollution from power plants.
The new decision allows the state to continue working out the details of the cap & trade program, which could launch as early as next January, while the court considers the crux of the matter: whether the California Air Resources Board has complied with environmental regulations by fully considering alternative strategies for reducing greenhouse gases.
Bill Gallegos, the executive director of Communities for a Better Environment, another of the plaintiffs, said that this newest ruling would not derail his organization’s efforts to “strengthen AB 32.”
“The evidence is that cap and trade is a failure,” he said. “And there’s a better way. We’d like to see Governor Brown step in and direct the ARB to put a hold on cap and trade.”
Last month, the Sierra Club of California sent a letter to Gov. Brown with a similar request.
ARB spokesman Stanley Young responded to the appellate court decision in a written statement:
Leading to an August 24 Board meeting, ARB is now seeking public comment on the environmental analysis of the alternatives to cap and trade in keeping with ARB’s interest in public participation and informed decision-making. The court of appeal’s recent stay order allows ARB staff to move ahead on the proposed regulation to keep that option open for the Board.
The cap & trade program is part of California’s landmark global warming law, AB 32, which mandates the state reduce greenhouse emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. It represents about a fifth of the total emissions reductions called for under AB 32.