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.

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

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.

NASA’s Closer Look at the Bay Area

Taking global climate models and “downscaling” them for use at the local level is an ongoing challenge for scientists and for planners.  But thanks to new climate projections from NASA, the Bay Area now has a sharper view of what may be in store.

BCDC map showing 16 inches of sea level rise in the SF Bay, which the agency projects will occur by mid-century.

NASA says two-thirds of its facilities are at risk from sea-level rise, including Ames Research Center, which sits at the southern edge of San Francisco Bay.  So, it’s not exactly altruism that motivated the agency to deploy its own scientists to take a closer look at what climate change will really mean on the ground in places where it’s heavily invested. Continue reading

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

Ask the Experts: 1 Million EVs by 2015?

The US already has more than a million hybrid-electric vehicles on the road. (Photo: Craig Miller)

Continuing an exercise I started in yesterday’s post, I’ve asked a few experts to weigh in on two national goals laid out by President Obama in this week’s State of the Union address. The experts seemed split on the viability of getting 80% of the nation’s electricity from “clean energy” by 2035. Today they address Obama’s call for one million electric vehicles “on the road” by 2015 (less than five years from now): Continue reading

Ask the Experts: Obama Energy Goals Realistic?

During his State of the Union speech last evening, President Obama articulated two national goals that jumped out at me: 80% of electricity from “clean” energy by 2035 and one million electric vehicles “on the road” by 2015 (just five years from now).

Keeping in mind that California’s goal of 33% renewable energy by 2020 is considered extremely ambitious, I put the question to a few experts in the renewable energy/alternative fuels field: Are these goals realistic? I’ll post their responses here as they come in. I’ve had to condense some of the replies for space considerations. Let’s take the 80% clean energy challenge first: Continue reading

Its First Renewables Goal Unmet, Can CA Meet The Next One?

California may not have met its goal of 20% renewable energy by 2010, but outgoing California Energy commissioner Jeffrey Byron says the state is close, and that California is on track to meet its its goal of 33% renewable energy by 2020.

“We didn’t get to the point where we’re generating 20% of our electricity by renewables, but I believe we do have, or we’re very close to having, all the contracts in place,” he said Thursday.

Byron was at Stanford University on Thursday, speaking at a workshop titled, “Grid Integration of Renewables.”
Continue reading

Another One Bites the Dust?

California’s cap-and-trade partners are dropping like flies.

It’s not official yet, but it’s looking like what was once envisioned as a regional carbon trading program involving seven US states and four Canadian provinces, will now involve just one US state – California – and just three provinces: Quebec, British Columbia, and Ontario.

One by one, members of the Western Climate Initiative have postponed their involvement or dropped out altogether, as Arizona did last February when Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order backing out of the carbon trading program.

And today, an online publisher quotes a key official in California’s carbon trading program, that the state stands to lose its last remaining US partner, New Mexico. As Colin Sullivan of E&E reported:

Kevin Kennedy, assistant executive officer in charge of the Office of Climate Change at the California Air Resources Board, told lawyers during a forum sponsored by Law Seminars International that the election results likely mean New Mexico will not participate in the fledgling WCI, at least at the outset of the market starting Jan. 1, 2012.

“The change in administration probably takes New Mexico out of the situation,” Kennedy said.

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Last week New Mexico’s new governor, Susana Martinez, announced that she was removing all members of the state’s Environmental Improvement Board, “because of what she said was its ‘anti-business’ policies.”  Last year, the EIB approved measures for the state to limit emissions and join the WCI’s cap-and-trade program.