California air pollution officials fined-tuned the state\u2019s carbon cap-and-trade program April 25 by adopting a number of amendments. The changes are aimed at making sure the carbon emissions reduction program \u201cruns smoothly,\u201d said California Air Resource Board chair Mary Nichols. Key amendments concerning the energy utility industry, according to Air Board air quality specialist Sara Nichols, were made as follows: \u2022\tResource Shuffling: Electricity importers no longer have to sign written attestations that they have not engaged in \u201cresource shuffling,\u201d a practice in which out-of-state power purchase contracts are swapped so that California receives energy made by a clean generating plant in exchange for an out-of-state utility getting power from the dirtier plant that used to supply California. The problem is that when this occurs emissions are not reduced. Under the amendments, California companies receiving power from out of state can no longer be prosecuted for resource shuffling as long as they are covered by a number of \u201csafe harbor\u201d provisions. Among the many safe harbor provisions are purchases under short-term contracts, purchases to make up for the loss of power from facilities that retire or for which contracts lapse, and purchases to meet reliability standards. \u2022\tLegacy Contracts: In-state generators that hold \u201clegacy contracts\u201d signed with utilities and other power purchasers before the state passed its climate change law are to get free emissions rights from the Air Board until they can renegotiate the contracts to pass along the cost of buying allowances. The generators are to receive free allowances through 2017. \u2022\tNatural Gas Supply: California gas utilities get free emissions rights beginning in 2015 when fuels come under the cap-and-trade system. Utilities have to submit for auction 25 percent of their allowances that same year and use the proceeds to benefit their customers. The number of gas utility allowances auctioned is to go up each succeeding year by 5 percent so that 50 percent of their allowances are auctioned in 2020. \u2022\tWaste-to-Energy Plants: These facilities turn methane or trash into electricity and were exempted from cap-and-trade program requirements through 2015. Other amendments open the way for developing emissions offsets that can be used to satisfy cap-and-trade by capturing methane that otherwise would be emitted at coal mines, according to air quality specialist Nichols. Methane leaking from mines across the nation totals the equivalent of 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to the Air Board. The Air Board also adjusted numerous definitions, reporting requirements, and emissions benchmarks for specific industries, from food processing to oil. It further extended from 2015 through 2017 distribution of free emissions allowances to industries\u2014like cement producers, oil refiners, and papermakers\u2014considered vulnerable to out-of-state or out-of-the-country competitors that do not have to abide by greenhouse gas reduction standards.