Assembly Natural Resources Panel Takes Up GHG Bills

By Published On: April 24, 2009

Amid some Republican backlash and Democratic finesse, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee took up several bills aimed at how to implement the state’s greenhouse gas reduction mandate April 20. The ones that passed detailed legislative expectations for a carbon cap-and-trade market. Those that failed included one creating a loophole for a new nuclear plant in the state and another to delay greenhouse gas reductions under the state’s climate protection law, AB 32. In the minority, Republicans sponsored bills that concentrated on the state of the economy. They cited the cost to residents of implementing greenhouse gas reductions as well as the price of backing away from traditional fuels for power generation. The biggest Republican failure this week was the bill that plans to back off greenhouse gas reductions. A similar bill got snagged in committee in the state Senate (see story below). The California Air Resources Board “completely failed” in its initial plan to reduce greenhouse gases, said Assemblymember Roger Niello (R-Fair Oaks). “It’s foolhardy to blindly proceed with this scoping plan.” The plan is the blueprint for carrying out AB 32, which calls for a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020. To address the plan, Niello authored ACR 14. It calls on the governor to delay implementing AB 32. Business interests supported the measure, but it failed in the committee by a 3-6 vote. However, it’s not dead yet. Another vote is set for next week, according to committee staff. Other greenhouse gas-related legislation in the Natural Resources Committee this week included: -AB 231--Assemblymember Jared Huffman’s (D-San Rafael) legislation sets up a “climate trust collection account.” The account would handle funds generated through a carbon cap-and-trade market, including revenues from auctioning carbon credits. In turn, the state would use the account to fund greenhouse gas reductions. “It’s important to designate the funds to avoid having the money used for non-climate change spending,” Huffman said. Environmental groups supported the measure; business groups called it “premature.” The bill passed 6-3 and was sent to the Appropriations Committee. -AB 1035--Assemblymember Chuck De Vore (R-Irvine) through this bill is promoting nuclear power as a means to reduce greenhouse gas. His bill seeks to create a one-time exception to the state’s 32-year-old ban on building nuclear plants. It would allow up to a 2,000 MW nuclear plant for any entity that “secures early site permits,” according to De Vore. “From a physics and economic standpoint, it’s impossible to reach AB 32’s goal without nuclear power plants,” he added. The legislation failed on a 3-6 vote. This was his second effort to promote nuclear power in California. -AB 1404--Assemblymember Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) wants guidelines for carbon offsets. He said his bill aims “to ensure real [greenhouse gas] reductions and prevents double counting.” It also would keep offsets within the “region they’re polluting.” Business interests opposed the bill. While it was voted out on a 5-3 vote to the Appropriations Committee, committee chair Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland) noted, “We might not want to tie their hands as much as [the bill] recommends.” -AB 1405--This de Leon’s measure seeks to guide funds derived from AB 32 fees to be used for local energy efficiency plans, public transit, and other global-warming related work, such as “cooling centers.” It too, was voted out to Appropriations on a 6-3 vote. Related legislation at the committee included: -AB 210--Assemblymember Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) wants to allow local governments to adopt their own “green building” standards. There was no opposition. It was voted out 8-0. -AB 1305--Assemblymember Manual Perez (D-Indio) wants to address power plant pollution from facilities in Mexico. His bill would require the California Environmental Protection Agency, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board to support Calexico and Imperial County’s implementation of the New River Public Health Improvement Project. The legislation is supported by Sempra, which owns cross-border facilities. It passed on a 6-3- vote.

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