cap and trade

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Support for Climate Policy High in California

Craig Miller

Three-quarters of Californians believe climate change is a serious threat to the state’s economy. And a majority thinks we need to act now to reduce emissions, rather than wait until the economy improves. These are among the findings of a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California

“Californians really believe that in our state there’s an opportunity to have a better environment and a better economy through addressing climate change,” concludes Mark Baldassare, who directed the survey and says Californians believe — by a two-to-one margin — that climate change policies, like requiring more renewable energy, will create jobs.

The survey also finds overwhelming bipartisan support for requirements mandating more fuel efficient cars (81%), “greener” buildings and appliances (74%), requiring utilities to increase renewable energy sources (82%), and for requiring industry to reduce emissions (82%). Continue reading

Free Cap-and-Trade System Beats Carbon Tax, Study Finds

By Susanne Rust

As governments try to figure out the best way to get carbon polluters to invest in and produce cleaner energy, two scenarios continue to come forward: cap and trade vs. carbon tax.

A new study from UC Merced and the University of New South Wales in Australia suggests that a free and uninhibited cap-and-trade system is the best way to go. The authors argue such a system will “trigger adoption of clean technologies at a considerably lower level of carbon prices” as compared with a tax system.

In addition, the study concludes that the higher risk and volatility of an unhindered market “are likely to induce suppliers to take early action to hedge against carbon risks.”

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CA Cap and Trade Compliance Delayed

Valero refinery in Benicia, CA (Photo: Craig Miller)

California power plants and refineries will likely have an extra year to comply with the state’s proposed cap & trade program, according to Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board.

In testimony to the Senate Select Committee on the Environment, the Economy, and Climate Change on Wednesday, Nichols said that the program would still begin in 2012 as planned, but that polluters would not be held accountable during that year. The extra slack would give participants and regulators time to “test” the program, she said. Continue reading

California Moves Ahead With Cap and Trade

ConocoPhillips oil refinery in Rodeo, CA (Photo: Craig Miller)

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. 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.
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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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EU Lesson for CA: Don’t Give Away the Store

Advice from Europe for California’s cap-and-trade captains

As California lurches toward what would be the nation’s most comprehensive carbon trading program, I got an interesting perspective from the world’s largest, the European Union. “California is one of the states that is actually moving forward in the US,” EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told me in a one-on-one interview this week. “And we know in Europe that sometimes when California starts to do something, that it’s the start of something that will end up being the American way of doing things.”

Connie Hedegaard directs climate action for the EU. (Photo: European Union)

Hedegaard, who is the EU’s Commissioner for Climate Action, cited California’s leadership in regulating tailpipe emissions, among others, though when it comes to cap-and-trade for carbon, it’s unclear who will be following. Certainly Congress is in no mood, and the regional trading scheme known as the Western Climate Initiative has been severely stunted.

Citing recent estimates that five years of carbon trading in Europe has lowered total greenhouse gas emissions by less than one percent, I asked her if she considers that a success. “Yes, I do,” replied Hedegaard. She countered with her own figures that while US emissions had continued to rise between 1990 and 2009, those in Europe had fallen 16%. “So we’re doing something right,” she said (again, EU carbon trading only began in 2005). “Of course when you’re building a complex system like that, those who do it first, in the first couple of years, have a lot of lessons learned.” Continue reading

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