California Passes Toughest Greenhouse Gas Emission Curbsby
Bill would cut carbon emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030
Chamber decries ’command and control regulations’ on industry
California is poised to make the nation’s strictest carbon emission controls even tougher, with a bill to cut greenhouse-gas discharges to 40 percent less than 1990 levels by 2030 now headed to Governor Jerry Brown.
The state Senate gave final approval 25 to 13 Wednesday, following a 42 to 29 vote in the Assembly Tuesday. Brown, a Democrat in his fourth term leading the most-populous state, said he intends to sign the measure. It is paired with a separate bill tightening legislative oversight of the California Air Resources Board approved Tuesday.
The emissions law builds on a 2006 measure that gave California the nation’s most ambitious program of countering climate change by limiting discharges from cars and industry, and by requiring businesses to purchase pollution credits via auction. It mandated that California reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Industry groups have decried the rules as punitive job-killers.
"With these bills, California’s charting a clear path on climate beyond 2020 and we’ll continue to work to shore up the cap-and-trade program, reduce super pollutants and direct more investment to disadvantaged communities," Brown said in an e-mailed statement after the Assembly vote Tuesday.
Brown and the Democrat-controlled Legislature have worked to position California as a global leader in drawing attention to the effects of humans on the Earth’s climate and to compel drivers and industries to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar power. Lawmakers and the governor have stared down a lobbying campaign by Chevron Corp. and other oil companies, which were successful last year in defeating a proposal to mandate a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use by 2030.
Between 2006 and 2013, California cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 10.9 percent, eclipsing a 10.3 percent reduction nationally, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Over the same period, California lost 15.7 percent of its manufacturing jobs, compared with 14.8 percent nationally, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.
The California Chamber of Commerce and the California Manufacturers & Technology Association both called on lawmakers and Brown to withdraw the new mandate. The chamber decried the new rules as "command and control regulations."
"California is on track to meet our 2020 climate change goals," Dorothy Rothrock, the president of the manufacturers group, said in a statement. "There is no need to pass a 2030 goal right now and many reasons to wait until we get the policies right."
California’s existing restrictions on carbon emissions and cap-and-trade program for selling pollution credits have added an estimated 12 cents a gallon to retail gasoline prices and about $5 a megawatt-hour to wholesale electricity, according to reports from the state’s tax board and power grid operator.
The new mandate would result in an additional increase in the wholesale price of electricity, said Colleen Regan, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Natural-gas generators will probably “break-even” as they will pass through the cost of the permits to wholesale rates, she said.
Though utilities will have to pay more for electricity in the wholesale market, they are allotted carbon permits that can be sold with the proceeds to reduce the impact of the policy on customer bills, Regan said.
The bill does not extend California’s cap-and-trade program for carbon allowances. That program has failed to live up to Brown administration projections, with only 34 percent of available credits sold at auction this month. Still, aides to Brown have said they plan to keep the program in place and extend it through a ballot measure if necessary.