Senate Environment Committee Clears Greenhouse Gas Bills

By Published On: April 24, 2009

A state Senate panel okayed several global warming bills April 20, including one to clarify the California Air Resources Board’s authority to collect revenue through market- based programs aimed at carrying out AB 32, the state’s climate protection law. Those programs could include emissions rights auctions. On a 5-2 vote, the Senate Environmental Quality Committee approved AB 31 authored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica). It would give the Air Board clear authority to auction credits and spend the revenue to administer AB 32 and to fund renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other projects that cut greenhouse gases. Pavley said the bill is needed so the state can “step up to the plate” in making the investments needed to successfully carry out AB 32. However, Dorothy Rothrock, California Manufacturers & Technology Association government relations vice president, opposed the measure. “It grants vast authority to the Air Resources Board they don’t already have,” she said. The bill now goes to the Senate Energy, Utilities, & Communications Committee. The Senate environment panel also cleared, SB 721, which calls for better coordination of climate change-related research in the state and another, SB 722, which would require the Air Board to certify the veracity of emissions offsets traded in the state. Both bills are authored by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Santa Cruz). The panel held another bill, SB 295, authored by Senator Bob Dutton (R-Riverside). It would require the Air Board effectively to redo its master plan for carrying out AB 32 after performing a peer reviewed socio-economic study that is certified by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The bill also would bar the Air Board from enforcing rules under AB 32 until the state’s unemployment rate drops below 5.8 percent for three months in a row. It now stands at 11.2 percent. Business groups offered support for the measure before the committee, but environmental groups staunchly opposed it. “The economic problems we face now pale in comparison to climate change,” said Tim Carmichael, Coalition for Clean Air senior policy director. “How big do you think the economic collapse in California should be before we delay the implementation of AB 32?” Dutton shot back. Finding little sympathy from the panel, the Riverside Republican agreed to rewrite the measure and present it again at a future meeting of the committee.

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