Air Board Economic Impact Study Delayed

By Published On: May 30, 2008

A key economic impact study of California’s strategy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions is delayed. This postponement may impact the quality of responses to the state’s greenhouse gas reduction plan. “The June plan won’t have a lot of analyses,” said Kevin Kennedy, Air Board climate change program evaluation branch chief May 27. “We would be concerned if a delay in modeling would cut into our response time as CARB drives toward the scoping plan deadline at the end of the year,” said Dorothy Rothrock, California Manufacturers and Technology Association vice president for government relations. Initially, the California Air Resources Board–which is in charge of developing the state’s game plan for trimming greenhouse gases–planned to issue the report in conjunction with its draft scoping plan. However, Air Board staff revealed May 27 that the agency does not plan to issue it until sometime in July as an addendum to a draft blueprint for carrying out the state’s climate protection law, AB 32. The draft plan is due out in late June. It remains unclear whether the economic study will be released before a scheduled series of meetings on the proposed plan July 8 through 17. The meetings are aimed at gathering viewpoints from utilities, local governments, businesses, and others who will be affected by the greenhouse gas reduction plan. Evaluation of the impacts of the greenhouse gas reduction measures outlined in the plan will continue through the summer, Chuck Shulock, agency assistant executive officer told Air Board members May 28. Further public meetings are expected after the economic evaluations are issued, an Air Board spokesperson added. State law requires the Air Board to adopt a “scoping plan” for carrying out the law by the end of this year that outlines the steps needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from California to their 1990 levels by 2020. In devising the plan, the Air Board is supposed to evaluate the total potential costs, as well as the non-economic benefits of the plan. Measures in the plan must be “technologically feasible” and “cost-effective.” A key legislative committee staff member noted that the law outlines an ambitious schedule for developing the plan. However, the staff member observed that under AB 32 the economic analysis is supposed to “back” the policy options outlined in the plan. The staffer pointed out that lawmakers criticized the California Public Utilities Commission earlier this year for recommending a strategy for regulating the power industry under AB 32 before finishing an economic analysis of its plan. Since then, the staffer observed, the state’s chief energy regulatory agency “seems to be punting to the CARB” on how to regulate the industry, even though the Air Board has little experience in economic regulation of the power sector. However, another key legislative staff member voiced confidence in the Air Board, saying that it has a good track record of taking public concerns into account and that the agency’s chair, Mary Nichols, has firm control over the AB 32 process. Editors’ note: For a more detailed version of this story, please see our sister publication E=MC2 – Energy Meets Climate Challenge. You can find it at www.energymeetsclimate.com

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