California Air Resources Board

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New Tool Maps California’s Biggest Greenhouse Gas Emitters

Interactive map pinpoints the polluters next door

Air Resources Board

In this Google Earth view, the height of the "balloon" location markers indicates the volume of greenhouse gas emissions.

Wondering where all the petroleum refineries are located in California? Curious about which industries in your area emit the most greenhouse gases? Or which counties have the most big industrial polluters, and which don’t have any at all?

A new interactive map from the California Air Resources Board taps the versatility of Google Earth software to transform eye-glazing spreadsheet data into a visual, if wonky, feast.

The map shows the locations and greenhouse gas emissions of about 625 facilities — the largest industrial greenhouse gas emitters in the state. The graphical tool can filter by type of facility (cement plant, refinery, electricity generation), by county or air district. You can use the satellite view to see a facility’s physical footprint, then switch over to Google Earth to see how its carbon footprint stacks up against other emitters. The EPA released a similar map earlier this year, but without all the Google Earth bells and whistles. Continue reading

California’s “Clean Car” Rules: A Historical Perspective

A leading transportation expert weighs in on California’s tough new emissions standards

Craig Miller/KQED

California's new emission standards would mandate a 15% increase in zero-emission-vehicles by 2025.

UPDATE: Today, California air regulators approved a package of “Clean Car” standards that many are calling historic. But there’s nothing new about that. California’s been out front in the clean car derby for decades.

In her recent story on QUEST, Lauren Sommer unpacks the proposed emissions standards. As part of her reporting she spoke with Dan Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, and a member of California’s Air Resources Board. Sperling puts the state’s new emissions standards in historical perspective, arguing that since the 1960s virtually all innovation in automotive emissions controls can be traced back to California. Here’s a snippet of Sommer’s conversation with Sperling. Continue reading

Feds Likely to Catch Up to California on Fuel Economy Standards

The EPA is pushing new nationwide fuel economy standards that would bring the nation up to California’s strict standards.

Spencer Platt/Getty

Consumer groups say the EPA's proposed fuel economy standard will mean you'll pay less at the pump.

At a public hearing in San Francisco today a diverse group of stakeholders lined up to support the EPA’s proposal to increase the fuel efficiency standard for cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon. As we’ve reported here, the rule would affect models between 2017 and 2025 and will likely be adopted by the end of the summer.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) worked closely with the EPA to develop the standard and testified that if the rule can be finalized as proposed, California will be willing to accept the national standard. CARB has been taking heat for this collaboration from Orange County Congressional Representative Darrell Issa, who has accused the state of meddling in national regulatory affairs.

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

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

Air Board Chief One-on-One

My experiment in audience participation falls short

I had the chance to sit down for a few minutes with California’s top air regulator today. Mary Nichols, who chairs the state’s Air Resources Board joined us by satellite from Sacramento. The seven-minute interview will air on KQED’s This Week in Northern California, Friday evening.

Nichols after a day-long public hearing in December of last year. (Photo: Craig Miller)

On Wednesday, blogger Jon Brooks posted a call for questions on “News Fix,” the KQED News blog. It was a worthwhile experiment but the results speak to the extent to which Nichols has become a lightning rod for opponents of environmental regulation in general and cap & trade in particular — and to some degree the state of public policy discourse in America today. The comments, some emailed and some posted on the comments thread at News Fix were largely a stream of invective directed at Nichols and the Air Board. Some questions were a bit technical for a seven-minute TV interview. Others were valid but off-topic. As the latest installment in our series of “Climate Watch Conversations,” I tried to keep to the climate-related business of the Board (with one exception: I felt I needed to have her address events unfolding in Japan and concerns here about radioactive drift).

Nonetheless I was able to cull a few for this brief interview. Continue reading

Air Board Defends EPA on Capitol Hill

A high-ranking California official appeared on Capitol Hill today to defend the right of the federal Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

James Goldstene, executive director of the state’s Air Resources Board, told members of a House subcommittee that the EPA’s recently released regulations will not create a “regulatory train wreck.”

Goldstene  held up a planned power plant in Northern California to advance his case, saying that the Russell City Energy Plant will stand as an example of how power companies can use the “best available technology” for reducing emissions, as required under a recently issued EPA rule. The plant, to be built on the Hayward shore of San Francisco Bay, is a 600-megawatt plant to be fired by natural gas.

Goldstene’s appearance before the Subcommittee on Energy and Power (part of the Energy & Commerce Committee) was to counter Republican efforts to pull EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, contained in a bill known as the Energy Tax Prevention Act. Goldstene said passage of the bill into law would “send a stark message…that the U-S isn’t serious about being a leader in the future economy.” It would also upstage a ruling by the US Supreme Court affirming the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Goldstene’s full testimony is available as a PDF download.

CA Air Official Rebukes Auto Trade Group

I-80 near the Oakland interchange known as "the Maze." (Photo: Craig Miller)

In a strongly-worded letter [PDF] to the CEOs of seven major auto manufacturers, California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols defended California’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks and accused the trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, of misrepresenting California’s cooperation with federal agencies in letters to Congress.

At issue, wrote Nichols, are letters the Alliance sent to Congressmen Darryl Issa (R-Vista) and Fred Upton (R-MI) in January, calling “our commitment to a national program into question.”

“For the Alliance to suggest we are no longer committed to a cooperative effort is disingenuous at best, and incorrect,” wrote the Air Board chairman.

Nichols called on the executives to “distance” their companies “from future efforts by the Alliance to undermine the achievement of our mutual goals to set standards that will provide American consumers with cleaner and more efficient vehicles.”

The letter comes just as California and federal agencies announced a shared deadline for their collaboration to set national fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for model year 2017-2025 cars and trucks.

Margot Roosevelt of the Los Angeles Times has more, including a response from an Alliance vice president who reportedly would not address the Nichols letter directly, but did express support for the shared fuel standards deadline.

EJ Groups Say Suit is Not To Undo AB 32

Plaintiffs who won a tentative ruling in a suit over the state’s climate law say they’re not out to torpedo AB 32

Six environmental justice groups sued state regulators over implementation of AB 32. (Photo: Craig Miller)

The half-dozen environmental justice advocacy groups sued over state regulators’ implementation plan and won a tentative ruling in their favor, from a state court in San Francisco. A lawyer for the Oakland-based Communities for a Better Environment called the ruling “very important and exciting,” but the groups insist that they’re looking to tweak the regulations under California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, not blow it up. Continue reading

Is AB 32 Headed for the Rocks?

After all this, California’s global warming law may have hit a legal wall

Lawyers at the gates. (Photo: Craig Miller)

Oil companies couldn’t bring it down with a well-funded statewide ballot initiative. But the state’s landmark 2006 law to combat climate change by regulating carbon emissions might be undone by another of California’s major environmental laws.

Cara Horowitz reports for Legal Planet that a San Francisco superior court could set aside implementation of AB 32, finding that the “scoping plan,” the implementation strategy developed by the state’s Air Resources Board, does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA. Continue reading