AB 32


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

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

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.” Continue reading

Air Board Hands in its Homework

Issues court-ordered do-over of alternatives to cap & trade

In response to a court ruling (which it’s still appealing), the California Air Resources Board today issued a new analysis of its proposed carbon trading program, weighed against several alternative means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Oil refineries are among California's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. (Photo: Craig Miller)The fresh look includes the original five options, including cap & trade and the option of doing nothing at all. It does not add any new options but rather seeks to flesh out the other three. The non-trading options include regulating emissions at the source, implementing a straight-up tax on carbon emissions, and a mixed bag of actions. The reworked analysis expands discussion of those three alternatives from a few pages to more than 60. It will be up to the courts to decide whether the extra paper carries enough substance with it to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. Continue reading

Court: Most of AB 32 May Go Forward

But the Cap & Trade Program Remains on Hold

Friday provided another blip in a confusing court fight over California’s centerpiece climate law, known as AB 32.

A “final” ruling from a Superior Court judge in San Francisco allows most implementation of the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act to go forward, except for the carbon trading plan known widely as “cap & trade.” Regulators at the California Air Resources Board (ARB) will have to flesh out their prior assessment of alternatives to cap & trade that could also result in reducing the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Analysis of those alternatives is required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). While ARB officials still insist that their original work was adequate under the law, groups representing an “environmental justice” agenda had sued, claiming that alternatives had not been fully explored. Continue reading

Sierra Club Challenges Governor on Cap & Trade

Letter implores Brown to “re-evaluate” regulation

(Photo: Craig Miller)

There’s a new sheriff in town, and environmentalists hope they can use that to their advantage. This week, the state chapter of the Sierra Club urged Governor Jerry Brown to reshape portions of the cap-and-trade rule, part of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, widely known as AB 32.

In particular, the group is calling for tougher restrictions on polluters and stricter standards on carbon offsets.

“We’re asking him to put his own stamp on global warming reduction policy,” said Bill Magavern, director of Sierra Club California. He said the current cap-and-trade rule is too soft on oil companies and other big polluters and does not achieve greenhouse gas reductions in the best way possible. The law is currently in legal limbo, due to an unrelated legal challenge by environmental justice groups.
Continue reading

In Cap and Trade Fight, EJ Groups Offer Options

Photo: Craig Miller

Suspend cap-and-trade, or stop the whole show.

Those are the options offered by the environmental justice groups who won a court ruling against the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in March. The groups were seeking to halt cap-and-trade over health concerns for communities located near industrial polluters. A California Superior Court judge ruled that CARB had violated state environmental law by not adequately considering alternatives to cap-and-trade, and suspended all 68 regulations that implement California’s global warming law, AB 32, until the board complies.

The two sides entered negotiations to find ways for the state to move forward with parts of AB 32 other than cap-and-trade, but those talks broke down on March 30.

Today, the environmental justice groups submitted their final documentation to the court, proposing two options. Continue reading

Emissions Trading May Not Worsen Local Pollution

Study could weaken underpinnings of suit holding up AB 32

Trees killed by acid rain. (Photo: bdk)

In response to a court order, California regulators say they are working up a “very robust analysis” of alternatives to cap & trade, a critical part of the state’s AB 32 climate law.

Right now, the entire implementation plan is on hold, after environmental justice groups sued the Air Resources Board.

A lower court ruling has forced state officials to reexamine the carbon trading program, on the grounds that alternative ways of controlling emissions were not adequately considered.

The activists’ concern is that a market-based system of emission reductions will create “hot spots” in low-income communities of color as industrial polluters buy the rights (called allowances, or carbon credits) to emit more greenhouse gases, and potentially bring other more toxic forms of pollution into nearby communities.

But will that happen? Since carbon trading won’t start until at least next year, the argument is hypothetical. But another example of emissions trading has been well tested.
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AB 32 Negotiations Stalled: Climate Plan in Limbo

Litigants can’t come to terms on letting part of the law proceed

Environmental justice groups say California's carbon trading program would make pollution worse for communities near major polluters. (Photo: Alison Hawkes)

Prospects for full implementation of California’s 2006 climate change law turned a darker shade of gray this week. Environmental justice groups walked away from negotiations with state officials. The talks were intended to allow certain portions of the plan to move forward even as the carbon trading program remained tied up in litigation.

That means implementation of AB 32 is effectively at a standstill.

“At this point my clients consider negotiations over,” said Brent Newell, a lead attorney in the case representing a dozen environmental justice groups and individuals. Continue reading

Another Wrench in AB 32

Air board will appeal ruling on implementation of AB 32

Environmental justice advocates will tell you they never intended to shut down the state’s whole climate law, when they filed suit against it. But a broadly-worded court decision could put some or all implementation of AB 32 on hold.

Waste gases are burned off at the ConocoPhillips refinery in Rodeo. (Photo: Craig Miller)

The ruling, which was rendered last Friday by a state superior court in San Francisco and made public yesterday, finds that in putting together its implementation (scoping) plan, the California Air Resources Board failed to give adequate weight to potential alternatives to cap & trade.

Judge Ernest Goldsmith issued the ruling:

“…enjoining any further implementation of the measures contained in the scoping plan until after (the Air Board) has come into complete compliance with its obligations under its certified regulatory programs and CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act).

The broad wording of that would seem at odds with the assessment of CARB chair Mary Nichols, who, in an interview on Friday, described the likely ruling to me as “a tempest in a teapot.” Continue reading