California greenhouse gas regulators unveiled changes to cap-and-trade program rules late last week that delay the need to comply with emissions limits from 2012 to 2013. The changes proposed by the California Air Resources Board also postpone the first emissions rights auction under the program from early 2012 to August 15, 2012. The Air Board\u2019s proposed amendments--to be discussed at a meeting in Sacramento on July 15--also would lift the limit on any company when it comes to purchasing future year emissions rights from 10 to 25 percent of the total number of credits offered for sale in any auction. The agency plans to leave unchanged the 10 percent limit on purchase of current year emissions rights. At the same time, the agency is planning to raise the amount of future year emissions rights auctioned from 2 percent of total rights to 10 percent of total rights. That makes more credits available in early program auctions. CARB reviewed the emissions allocations planned for various industries and decided to leave the state\u2019s power industry unchanged at 97.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012 declining linearly to 83 million metric tons in 2020, a 15 percent reduction. The proposal also outlines numerous clarifications to the program\u2019s emissions offset provisions, including that the Air Board plans to issue emissions credits on a one-for-one basis for early action measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through urban forestry and livestock methane projects, plus efforts to cut emissions of ozone depleting substances. The Air Board plans to finalize the amendments by Oct. 28. * * * * * The California Air Resources Board July 8 discussed an analysis of alternatives to a cap-and-trade program to lower greenhouse gas emissions under AB 32, the state\u2019s climate protection law. The analysis, prompted by litigation, concluded the only other realistic approach is a smaller emissions trading program combined with a small carbon tax and a series of direct emissions reduction rules. The additional direct rules could entail the early phase-out of out-of-state coal power plants that supply California, cleaner cars than currently contemplated, and capping emissions at oil refineries, gas and oil wells, and cement making plants. Relying solely on either a carbon tax or direct regulations in lieu of cap-and-trade would hurt the state\u2019s economy, according to the agency. The analysis said that the current cap-and-trade plan--or some alternative to it--needs to cut annual state greenhouse gas emissions by 22 million metric tons by 2020 to satisfy AB 32. Under the existing cap-and-trade plan, the state\u2019s power industry would make 67 percent of the planned reductions. The Air Board is expected to approve the analysis Aug. 24. It stems from litigation filed by environmental justice groups claiming the agency did not examine enough alternatives to cap-and-trade when it devised its program for carrying out AB 32, which aims to return state greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 level by 2020. * * * * * Republicans continue to try and hamstring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency\u2019s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. On July 12, the House Appropriations Committee proposed slashing the agency\u2019s upcoming budget during a hearing on the 2012 Interior-Environment Appropriations bill. Committee chair, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), said the proposed spending measure caps EPA personnel and takes \u201cexplicit action to address EPA\u2019s wrong-headed greenhouse gas regulations, its de facto moratorium on mining permits in Appalachia... I am hopeful that these provisions are sufficient to prod EPA in the right direction.\u201d Betsaida Alcantara, EPA spokesperson, said, \u201cThese actions undermine bipartisan, commonsense steps to protect the health and safety of the American people. They would significantly undermine our ability to protect the air we breathe, safeguard the water we drink and cut dangerous pollution that threatens the health of our families.\u201d For months, EPA has been on the hot seat. Starting last February, Republicans in the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy & Power declared the EPA\u2019s attempt to reduce greenhouse gases too \u201caggressive\u201d (Current, Feb. 11, 2011). At that time, committee chair Fred Upton (R-MI) attempted to joke about EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson\u2019s new \u201cparking spot\u201d on Capitol Hill because of an upcoming slew of hearings to grill her about EPA\u2019s actions.