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CA Assembly Passes Bills to Extend Greenhouse Gas Targets to 2030

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella Valley), flanked by Governor Jerry Brown, addresses the press after two major climate change policy bills passed.
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella Valley), flanked by Governor Jerry Brown, addresses the press after two major climate change policy bills passed.

Today, the California Assembly passed A.B. 197, the companion bill to the Senate's greenhouse gas reduction target bill, S.B. 32, which it passed yesterday. A.B. 197 will now go to Governor Jerry Brown to sign into law, which he has said he is eager to do. S.B. 32, which extends greenhouse gas reduction targets out until 2030, passed the Senate later in the afternoon and is also headed to the governor's desk.

Proponents hail the passage of the bill as a historic moment, continuing and expanding California's precedent-setting climate change efforts. Senator Fran Pavley's S.B. 32 extends her original 2006 bill, A.B. 32, which called for California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The new bill sets new targets of 40 percent below those 1990 levels by 2030.

S.B. 32 leaves it up to the California Air Resources Board to adopt rules and regulations “in an open public process” to “achieve the maximum, technologically feasible, and cost-effective greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

The passage of S.B. 32, which did not look like a sure thing a year ago, was surely helped by being connected to its companion bill, A.B. 197 from Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). That bill gives the legislature oversight stronger oversight over the Air Resources Board, something that critics of A.B. 32 and its resulting rules about cap and trade have complained is needed.

Oversight is provided through the addition of two members of the legislature to the Board as well as by creating a Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies, to include at least three Senators and three Assemblymembers. The bill also requires the ARB to make its emissions data available to the public, and to report on each method and alternative methods it considers for reducing greenhouse gases.

Garcia, presenting his bill to the Assembly today, addressed charges that the two bills do not “go far enough.” But “doing nothing keeps us in the same position, with our hands tied behind our back, continuing to complain about ARB being out of control and losing our ability as a legislature to do anything about climate change,” he said. “I feel confident about the oversight this will bring.”

“In passing SB 32, we drew up a road map. AB 197 is the vehicle that gets us there,” wrote Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon in an official statement.

“Assembly Bill 197 provides the mechanisms to make sure the goals we set in SB 32 are reached. Greater legislative oversight, as well as agency accountability and data transparency from the Air Resources Board will only make our climate change efforts benefit all Californians.”

Despite charges from some legislators in hearings that their communities are suffering from job loss as a result of California's stringent emissions controls, business leaders also applauded the legislation. Nicole Lederer, chair of national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs, wrote: “California’s legislators just doubled down on one of the strongest, most innovative climate policies in the world. Their vote is welcome news to a broad and inclusive coalition of business leaders who are demanding ever-stronger climate action.”

At a press conference following the vote, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) dismissed charges that economic hardship resulted from climate policies. “That's a false narrative, a myth that's been perpetuated for far too long,” he said. “We have no empirical data to suggest that our climate change policies have led to job loss. We do have the empirical evidence that shows we have created 500,000 brand new jobs in green industries.” Those are brand new, never-before-seen jobs, he said. And communities that have lost jobs due to general market changes or other causes would be in much worse shape if these new jobs hadn't been created as part of California's climate change policies.

“This is not just reducing carbon in the abstract,” said De León. “It's also about economic growth. This is a new direction for our economy. We've shown that we can grow and prosper without poisoning our communities or our children. The 'green economy' has grown from boutique to a real pillar of our economy, and it is here to stay.”

At the press conference, Governor Jerry Brown said, “This is a very important milestone. It gives legislative force to our clean air goals for 2030, and it's a real commitment backed up by real power.”

About opposition to the bill, Brown said, “Bring it on.”

“The effort to decarbonize our economy is extremely difficult. It's a a tall hill that we're climbing, and there is opposition,” he said. Of course the oil companies object, he observed, because they are selling a product that will “ultimately have to be reduced substantially for us to live a clean healthy life.”

“It's never easy; it's never perfect,” he added, “but we can keep correcting it with oversight, and with wisdom. We haven't finished it all.”

The fate of cap-and-trade is entwined with the fate of these bills, although there is nothing in them that directly addresses the system for creating a market for emissions in the state. A couple of questions are still pending, including how to invest the currently unallocated portion of cap-and-trade revenue. The legislature has one week to reach agreement before the session ends next Wednesday.

Senator De León brought up the question at the press conference, saying that an agreement needs to be made soon so that we can reap the most greenhouse gas reduction benefits in the shortest time possible. One journalist asked Brown if he agreed with De León. “Are you committed to spending at least a little bit of that money before the end of the session?” she asked.

He smiled. “Exactly,” he said. “I am committed to spending a little of that money.”

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