Along party lines, the state Senate Environmental Quality Committee April 5 turned down two bills Senator Robert Dutton (R-Riverside) authored to place controls on the California Air Resources Board as it adopts rules on greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The committee voted 4-to-2 to reject SB 960, requiring the Office of Administrative Law to independently study the economic effects of major rules the Air Board proposes. “This bill would lend credibility to the implementation of AB 32,” claimed Dutton, speaking of the state’s climate change law. The Republican lawmaker said the agency has made mistakes in analyzing the economics of many of its rules through the years However, Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) maintained the agency has strong analytical expertise, an open rulemaking process, and that it was doubtful the Office of Administrative Law could do any better. The committee also turned back SB 1120, preventing the Air Board from adopting any California-only carbon cap-and-trade program to carry out AB 32. The measure would have required the agency only go ahead as part of the Western Climate Initiative process or in conjunction with a federal program. The Western Climate Initiative--an effort by many states to create a regional carbon trading market--is bogged down due to growing economic concern in other states. In the nation’s capitol, federal climate legislation is in limbo on the Senate side, waiting for a promised bill authored by U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA) vice president Dorothy Rothrock warned that if the state goes it alone on cap-and-trade it would encourage some businesses to move across state lines where they still could serve California without bearing associated costs. Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) called the measure an attack on AB 32 itself. Dutton authored the bills as Republicans and some businesses pressure the state to slow down or suspend its AB 32 program. Backed by oil companies, one group is trying to qualify a measure for the November ballot that would suspend the law until the unemployment rate falls from over 12 percent today to 5.5 percent. Meanwhile, the leading Republican candidate for governor, Meg Whitman, has pledged to suspend the law for one year if elected. In separate action, the Senate Food & Agriculture Committee advanced a bill to fund research and development programs aimed at reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. The measure--SB 1241, authored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis)--would create a committee to administer the funds, which would come from any emissions rights auction under a state carbon cap-and-trade program aimed at carrying out AB 32. California organic growers support the measure, saying it would help farms reduce their carbon and environmental footprints. However, CMTA opposed the bill on grounds the California Air Resources Board, which is administering AB 32, does not have the legal power to collect any fees. Wolk responded that her bill “isn’t about controversy,” but about getting some of the money from any AB 32 auction “to encourage the positive contribution of agriculture” in controlling greenhouse gases. The panel passed the measure 3-0. It goes next to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.