A key advisory committee disagrees with the California Air Resources Board's approach to carrying out the state's new climate change law, AB 32. At an April 30 meeting, the board's Environmental Justice Advisory Committee lambasted the agency's proposed early action measures, budget, and commitment to a greenhouse gas emissions trading program. "It would be nice to have an experience where we're not talking into the air and having our recommendations ignored," said advisory committee member Martha Arguello, Physicians for Social Responsibility director of health and environment. The environmental justice committee raised concerns after several of its proposed measures to slash carbon emissions were left off the board's draft list of early action measures (Circuit, April 27, 2007). The panel is mandated under AB 32 to advise the air board on how to ensure that greenhouse gas reduction requirements do not cause environmental justice problems - that is, affecting poor or minority communities unfairly. Members of the panel complained that the air board selected only three early action measures out of 70 proposed. They noted that two of the selected measures - low-carbon fuels and a ban on over-the-counter sales of automobile air conditioning refrigerant - would have disproportionate economic impacts on poor people. "You've already had food riots in Mexico," said Jane Williams, panel co-chair. She noted how increasing use of "low-carbon" ethanol is driving up the price of corn and raising the price of tortillas (Circuit, Jan. 22, 2007). Banning over-the-counter sale of refrigerant will force poor motorists to take their cars into a shop for air conditioning service, she added, where they will pay more. However, CARB staff defended the car refrigerant sales ban. Richard Corey, air board research and economic studies branch chief, called the refrigerant a "powerful greenhouse gas." He added that "leaky systems are being filled and refilled" routinely. Members of the panel specifically questioned why the air board left out measures to require early greenhouse gas emissions reductions at petroleum refineries. They complained too that the air board did not include requiring installations of solar panels and other renewable energy technologies whenever new power plants are licensed. Corey said the air board has not ruled out such measures but did not include them on its early action list because it might not be able to adopt them in time. AB 32 specifies that the air board must adopt greenhouse gas reduction rules no later than the end of 2009 to qualify as "discrete early action measures." Unsatisfied by air board staff response, the advisory panel decided to form a subcommittee that will delve into the board's proposed early action measures list. The panel also criticized the air board's budget request for the new climate change program, which would create 123 new positions. "We have to make an inalienable commitment of public funds to meet the goal of the program," said Williams. Rather than funding the new positions with fees that AB 32 authorizes the air board to levy, the proposal would divert money from other programs. The concerns echoed those voiced earlier this year by the Legislative Analyst's Office (Circuit, Feb. 23, 2007). The committee also criticized the air board's plans to devote 24 of the new staff members to developing market-based measures, plus additional administrative support staff. The staffing level is indicative of "a momentum" toward creating an emissions trading market as a key strategy for reducing greenhouse gases, said Bill Gallegos, Communities for a Better Environment executive director and panel member. Committee members are concerned that a cap-and-trade emissions-trading program would allow some facilities to continue to run old plants that emit high levels of greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants by purchasing emissions offsets. Many of the facilities are located in poor neighborhoods, they noted. Chuck Shulock, Air Board climate change coordinator, responded that the agency was requesting five new positions to work on its three proposed early action measures and an additional 29 new staff members to write command-and-control rules. Rather than allowing offsets, command-and-control rules require companies to reduce emissions by installing specified technologies by dates certain. He also said it was possible that the Department of Finance and the air board will work to identify longer-term funding for the climate change program after the next budget year. His response was also deemed unsatisfactory by the committee. It agreed to create another subcommittee to examine the board's budget proposal for the climate change program. The two new subcommittees plan to hold public hearings on the matters in the weeks ahead.