Activists to Air Board: Keep the Cap, Lose the Trade

Regulators vote to keep cap-and-trade plan on track

Cal-Span

A parade of environmental justice proponents pleaded with officials to abandon cap-and-trade. A woman in the background holds a sign that says: "Keep the cap. Drop the Trade."

Members of the “environmental justice” movement lost a major round to air officials on Wednesday, when the latter voted to keep California’s nascent cap-and-trade plan on track.

The program is a key component of the state’s landmark strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Activists sued to stop the program, claiming it does little to curb toxic emissions from industrial facilities and farming operations.

Environmental justice advocates packed the Sacramento hearing room of the Air Resources Board to fight the state’s plan to allow corporate trading of carbon pollution rights. Marie Harrison of San Francisco’s Bayview district put it succinctly:

“We are relying on you to do what you were put here for and that is to protect us.”

Harrison and others fear that cap-and-trade will not protect them against toxic air pollutants from industrial facilities, which tend to be located in poorer communities.

A court order forced air officials to do more analysis of alternatives like a direct carbon tax. They did — but Wednesday, after six hours of impassioned, sometimes tearful testimony, voted to move ahead with cap & trade, as planned. Brent Newell, a lawyer for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, called the Board’s court-ordered “expanded” analysis “a sham.”

Officials acknowledged concerns expressed by the speakers but said that other air quality programs, already in place, should prevent levels of local toxic emissions from rising.

Compliance with the cap-and-trade program has been pushed back a year and is now set to begin in 2013.

Note: This post has been corrected. References to “Monday” that appeared in its original form have been changed to “Wednesday.”