Governor Signs Bills on Los Angeles Area Air Credits

By Published On: October 16, 2009

Air emissions credits were cleared for a Coachella Valley power plant project under legislation Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law October 11. A separate bill the governor signed unfreezes air credits for thousands of small business and government projects in greater Los Angeles, but leaves the fate of credits for major power plant projects up to the courts. The governor signed AB 1318 by Assemblymember Manuel Perez (D-Coachella). It allows the South Coast Air Quality Management District to provide Competitive Power Ventures with emissions offset credits for its proposed 600 MW gas-fired Sentinel Project. SB 827 by Senator Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles), also signed by Schwarzenegger, lifts a freeze on credits for small businesses and government essential public service projects in the region. The legislation partially addresses a situation stemming from a South Coast Air Quality Management District move in 2006 to open to power plants a pool of air credits it maintains for essential public services and small businesses without a full environmental impact analysis. That move drew a lawsuit by environmental justice groups, which initially won in court. The air district interpreted the court’s ruling as preventing it from issuing credits to essential public services and other businesses, as well as to power plants (Circuit, Aug. 1, 2008). The federal Clean Air Act requires businesses and government agencies to purchase or obtain the so-called emissions offset credits to build new facilities in the polluted area under the district’s jurisdiction. Power plant projects remain stymied by the lack of air credits in the polluted area until regulators and environmental advocates agree on a new policy that passes legal muster. The governor also signed bills to advance the state’s battle on global warming, including: -SB 104, by Senator Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach), which requires the state to regulate nitrogen trifluoride as a greenhouse gas. The gas is used to make several consumer items, including photovoltaic solar panels, LCD television screens, and microprocessors. It has a global warming potential 17,000 times greater than carbon dioxide and persists in the atmosphere 550 years; -AB 531, by Assemblymember Lori Saldana (D-San Diego), which requires disclosure of energy use data when buildings are sold; and -AB 881, by Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), which creates the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority to help cities and local agencies cut greenhouse gases. Schwarzenegger vetoed these bills related to global warming and energy efficiency: -AB 828, by Assemblymember Ted Lieu (D-El Segundo), which would have required the California Energy Commission to develop voluntary energy efficiency standards for green buildings and for state agencies to coordinate on green building standards; -AB 1173, by Huffman, which would have prohibited utilities from subsidizing compact fluorescent light makers unless they had implemented CFL recycling programs; and -AB 1404, by Assemblymember Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), which would have limited use of offsets in any state carbon cap-and-trade program to no more than 10 percent of total greenhouse gas reductions.

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