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California Lobbies for Early Action on EPA Waiver

cars.jpgWasting no time, California officials sent letters to the Obama Administration on its first day, asking that the EPA approve the state’s request for a Clean Air Act waiver, which would allow California to set stricter standards for passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

As Sasha Khokha recently reported for The California Report, Sacramento requested the waiver from the EPA in 2005, only to see it denied in March 2008, a move that has blocked the state from enforcing its own laws designed to reduce tailpipe emissions.  The state has been fighting for the waiver for the last year along with several other states that have adopted the same regulations.

If granted, the waiver would allow California to take steps to reduce emissions from passenger cars 30 percent by 2016.

In his written appeal, Gov. Schwarzenegger asked that President Obama “direct the EPA to act promptly and favorably on California’s reconsideration request so that we may continue the critical work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on global climate change.”

California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols also spoke out Wednesday, in a letter to the new designated EPA head Lisa Jackson, stating that “the decision made by the former adminstrator to deny  California the waiver to enforce our clean air car laws was flawed, factually and legally, in fundamental ways.”

At her confirmation hearing, Jackson said only that she promised a “speedy review” of California’s waiver issue.

This fact sheet from CARB explains more about California’s emissions standards for cars and the agency’s take on the waiver controversy.

National Cap-and-Trade Program Unveiled

California’s largest electric utility joined with a coalition of about 30 other companies and environmental groups today, in taking the wraps off a proposed national climate strategy. After two years of talks, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which includes PG&E, is ready to put its muscle behind it’s Blueprint for Legislative Action, just in time for Inauguration Day.

The program uses a trading program for carbon credits, much like the Western Climate Initiative, a collaboration of several western states and Canadian provinces. The goal is to roll back greenhouse gas emissions to:

> 97%‐102% of 2005 levels by 2012
> 80%‐86% of 2005 levels by 2020
> 58% of 2005 levels by 2030
> 20% of 2005 levels by 2050

While stated a little differently here, the targets reflect what has become the broadly accepted goal of cutting GHGs 80% by 2050.

A thorny question surrounding carbon trading programs is always whether pollution credits will be auctioned off or given away free to major emitters. According to the group’s “blueprint:”

“USCAP recommends that a significant portion of allowances should be initially distributed free to
capped entities and economic sectors particularly disadvantaged by the secondary price effects of a
cap and that free distribution of allowances be phased out over time.”

This would appear to conflict with the stated goals of the Western Climate Initiative, whose representatives have committed (at least verbally) to making companies pay for most credits up front. And yet the USCAP plan carries the endorsement of major environmental organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy and the NRDC, both of which are members.

As one corporate executive put it at the plan’s unveiling, “We simply think you have to give away a significant portion…and then phase them out over time.”

The USCAP plan also offers emitters the chance to buy approved carbon offsets and gives special allowances to companies that have already achieved verifiable reductions in GHG emissions–or plan to do so.

Climate Coverage: From Drywall to Rubber Ducks

You just never know where the next climate story will come from.

This week on KQED’s Quest Radio, Marjorie Sun reports on how some of the most common building materials are among the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Manufacturing your most basic buttcrack essentials like drywall, steel and cement requires vast amounts of energy. Now, several Silicon Valley start-ups are looking for cleaner solutions and some of their efforts are drawing major venture capital.

Then from the “concrete” to the…well, how would you describe this?  I’m not sure but it’s one of my favorite climate experiments of the year: NASA Deploys Rubber Ducks for Cryosphere Clues. Scientists from California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena are behind this BBC story that probably should’ve been posted on April 1st.

We’re all pulling for these rubberized cryonauts, hoping they don’t end up in an endless swirl as part of the giant Pacific plastic trash vortex that David Gorn reported on in August.