Assembly Bill 32

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Why EJ Groups are Leery of Cap & Trade

Environmental Justice groups say they support California’s climate law. So why did they sue?

Environmentalists may seem the most unlikely of sources stalling the state’s landmark climate change law. But the case brought by a group of environmental justice advocates is bringing up issues that have been largely overlooked in the zeal of carrying forward AB 32.

(Photo: Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment)

This means that a California power plant can increase CO2 emissions if it buys allowances from another industry that’s reducing emissions, or offsets from, say, a tree farm in Canada.

“The evidence out there is that cap-and-trade is going to fail these communities and will continue to allow polluters to dump on them, and that’s unacceptable and it’s also illegal,” said Alegria De La Cruz, legal director at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment in San Francisco. The Center is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by several organizations over the implementation plan for AB 32. Parties in that case are awaiting finalization of a state court ruling that could hold up the scheduled launch of California’s cap & trade plan. Continue reading

It’s (Sort of) Official: Cap & Trade Is (Almost) Here

After a ten-hour hearing in which board members endured more than 170 speakers, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to “endorse” a 200-page set of rules for what will be the world’s second largest cap & trade program (after Europe).

CARB is charged with implementing the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, which mandates that California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  The cap & trade program is a key piece of the Air Board’s plans.

“It’s an exciting program,” said Board chair Mary Nichols. “It’s a very big step forward.”

Not that the job is done. Several facets of the regulation will now undergo a fine-tuning process, with another report back to the board in July of next year. Eventually it will find its way to the state’s Office of Administrative Law for review, and finally to the governor’s office, to be signed as an executive order. Continue reading

Poll: Californians Still Support Cap-and-Trade

A new poll shows Californians holding firm to their support of California’s climate strategy, including cap-and-trade provisions likely to be approved next week. The poll accompanies a sheaf of new studies commissioned by the pro-clean-tech think tank known as Next 10.

(Photo: Craig Miller)

The Field poll of about 500 Californians, taken right before Thanksgiving, shows two-thirds (66%) of respondents still favor (either “strongly” or “somewhat”) the 2006 climate law known as AB 32, including the cap-and-trade provisions (64%). About one in four oppose both.

The studies released with the poll point to an economic anticlimax under the cap & trade regulations of AB 32, with net benefits in the long-term. One of the lead investigators, David Roland-Holst, calls it a “small ripple in a giant teapot,” the teapot representing the massive California economy. A “synthesis of the findings” released by Next 10 shows a “very small” impact on the state’s economy, and “very small” changes in retail electricity rates. It also concludes that so-called “leakage” — the regulation-induced exodus of business from California is “likely to be small.” That’s not to say there are no losers. “We’ve got to be honest and say there will be trade-offs,” said Roland-Holst. Continue reading

Taking Climate Education to the Streets

Science museums, aquariums and other “informal educators” walk a tightrope when it comes to climate change.

By Marjorie Sun

The California Academy of Sciences and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have a big advantage that some educational institutions in other parts of the country don’t: most of their visitors — who tend to be Californians — believe that climate change is real. That means their global warming exhibits can focus on solutions, for example, rather than laying out the basics of atmospheric science.

Californians’ concern about climate change has translated into political support for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. According to survey results released in July by the Public Policy Institute of California, two-thirds of Californians strongly back the pioneering state law known as AB 32. The law requires a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. And the recent defeat of Proposition 23 by 22 percentage points would appear to affirm that support.

Californians appear to buck some national trends on climate change issues. A declining number of Americans say there is solid evidence that the world is warming. The number dropped from 79% in 2006, when AB 32 was passed, to 59% this year, according to a survey just released by the Pew Research Center.  The number who think scientists agree that the world is warming due to human activity fell from 59% to 44% over the same period. Even more telling, perhaps, is that the ratio of “yes” to “no” answers to the latter question for Republicans (30:58) is almost the mirror image of that for Democrats (59:32).

New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer details in a recent, in-depth article that billionaires David and Charles Koch, titans of the oil industry, have been spending millions of dollars waging a covert disinformation campaign to thwart climate change legislation in the United States.

Aboard the Bio-Bus

A local organization has launched a mobile counter-offensive. The Alliance for Climate Education, a non-profit based in Oakland, has created a hip, multi-media presentation spiced with animation and rock music to reach teens. Think An Inconvenient Truth goes MTV. The alliance has shown it to more than 420,000 high schoolers across the nation in the past year. The presentation teaches teens the basics about climate change and urges them to “do one thing” to fight it.

Alliance staffers also have tricked out an old school bus with clean tech, driving it to schools and museums to showcase renewable technology. The blue bio-bus runs on used cooking oil collected from restaurants. Solar panels on the bus charge cell phones and computers on board.

Unmasking the Cow

The model cow in the Monterey Bay Aquarium climate change exhibit originally appeared with a gas mask, which has since been removed. (Photo: Craig Miller)

Meanwhile, keeping the climate change exhibits up-to-date scientifically is a concern for the museums. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, outfitting a life-size model cow with a gas mask was prompted in part by a 2006 study by the Food and Agriculture Organization. The FAO study said that industrial production of livestock in general, including cattle, pigs, and poultry, accounts for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions. But another FAO study released in April — about the same time the climate change exhibit opened — examined the GHG emissions for the dairy industry alone, not beef production. It concluded that dairy production contributes just four percent of emissions. The study (PDF download), along with howls of protests from the local dairy industry, helped convince the aquarium to unmask the Holstein.

One last tidbit about interactive exhibits: One of the most popular — common to the Academy and the Monterey Bay Aquarium — is surprisingly low-tech. Thousands of visitors write on comment cards about what they can do to fight climate change and hang them on display boards there. One of them, in a child’s handwriting, read “Reduce, reuse, recycle and homework is bad for the environment.”

Hear Marjorie’s companion radio feature on KQED’s Quest radio program, Monday morning. A version of this post also appears on the Quest blog.

Regions Make Their Own Climate Stand

In the absence of an international agreement, states and provinces commit to work together to fight climate change.

Gov. Schwarzenegger making closing remarks at the Governors' Global Climate Summit (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s third and final Governors’ Global Climate Summit wrapped up Tuesday with the launch of a new international coalition aimed at developing projects that cut carbon emissions around the globe. R20, or “Regions of Climate Action” is the culmination of Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts to spur “subnational” action to address climate change.

“We can’t afford to wait for national and international movement,” he said in a press release announcing R20. “Action is needed now.” Continue reading

The Next Battle Front for AB 32

California’s Proposition 23 has failed at the polls, so now either the “second Industrial Revolution” may proceed or it’s the end of free enterprise as we know it, or we simply move on to the next front in the assault on California’s emerging carbon regulations.

(Photo: Craig Miller)

The $40 million fight over Prop 23 presented two opposing themes: (a) AB 32 will wreck the economy, or (b) AB 32 will save the economy. Both visions for California’s climate law were hyperbolic. It would be fascinating to be able to tap into some parallel universe where it did pass, just to see what would really happen. More than likely some middle ground would prevail, as it will now, in this Universe. Continue reading

Prop 23 Lands With a Thud

Voters reject a measure to set aside California’s landmark climate law.

California’s chief air regulator was jubilant: “They didn’t know who they were messing with,” said Mary Nichols, when the first numbers came in from the polls.

Nichols, who chairs the state’s Air Resources Board, was reveling in the 20-point trouncing that voters gave the statewide ballot measure to freeze the state’s greenhouse gas law, known as AB 32. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger seized the World Series moment and the locale, adjacent to the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark, to take a swing at the oil companies that financed Prop 23: “Less than 24 hrs later, we are beating Texas again,” proclaimed the Governor, who has made the state’s 2006 climate law a tent pole of his legacy. Continue reading

Air Board Likely to Give Away Most Carbon Permits

California’s greenhouse gas regulators may ease the pain for companies under an evolving cap-and-trade plan.

Photo: Craig Miller

A staff report issued today by the state’s Air Resources Board provides the first details of how a state-run cap-and-trade program would work. As regulators had warned in recent months, it appears that most emissions permits will be given away, at least initially. Environmental groups had been pressing for a “100% auction,” making industry pay for all allowances.

But Jamie Fine, an economist with the Environmental Defense Fund in Sacramento,  says it’s not that straightforward. Fine interprets documents released today to mean that most allowances would be given away to begin with, but by 2015, with the gradual expansion of the program, more than half of the permits would be auctioned off. Continue reading

Prop 23: No’s Rally, Pros Retreat?

In what might signal a final push by Silicon Valley, an environmentally-oriented investor group today released a manifesto from 66 “leading investors” opposed to California’s Proposition 23. The group is said to manage more than $400 billion in assets.

In a conference call with reporters, venture capitalist Alan Salzman called clean technology the “next industrial revolution,” and that “California is at the epicenter.” To prove his point, Salzman pointed to $9 billion invested in “clean-tech” since 2006, in California alone, and he called Prop 23 “antithetical” to the transition that global industry is now undergoing, claiming that 20% of total venture capital funding is flowing to clean-tech, of late. Continue reading

Prop 23: The View from Valero

Carbon dioxide is “not pollution,” say engineers for the nation’s biggest refiner.

Listen to Rachael Myrow’s radio feature on The California Report.

Valero's Benicia refinery in Solano County. (Photo: Craig Miller)

Last week, as the campaign rhetoric for and against Proposition 23 was heating up, The California Report host Rachael Myrow and I spent an afternoon with three of Valero’s environmental specialists at the company’s refinery in Benicia, up the Sacramento River from San Francisco Bay. They briefed us on the refining process in some detail and drove us around the 400-acre refinery site, near the Carquinez Strait in Solano County.
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