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California Legislature

California lawmakers offer a plan to extend the state's cap-and-trade program

 (Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)
(Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

A group of lawmakers, including some who have been skeptical of global warming regulations, introduced legislation on Thursday to ensure that California's cap-and-trade emissions control program remains a permanent part of the state's climate policy.

The measure, AB 151, is only one paragraph long right now, but it represents an opening bid in the brewing battle over the future of the state's program for requiring companies to buy pollution permits in order to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants a supermajority vote in both houses of the Legislature to safeguard cap-and-trade from legal uncertainty, stemming in part from a lawsuit over whether the program represents an unconstitutional tax. There also remain questions about whether current law requires the program to expire in 2020. 

“This was a good time to start having the conversation," said Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), who introduced the legislation with Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove).

Cooper is a leader of Democrats' so-called moderate caucus, a loose group of business-aligned Democrats who have pushed back on attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. 

Various advocacy groups who are normally at odds over climate change policies are now preparing to line up behind a cap-and-trade extension, although they could wind up on different sides as the debate continues.

The Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council see the issue as an opportunity to solidify California's leadership in the battle against global warming.

The Western States Petroleum Assn., which issued a statement on Tuesday supporting cap-and-trade, appears wary that state regulators could pursue even more stringent policies if the program falls apart. 

Burke said negotiations this year will require everyone to have their say. 

“It’s super important that everybody is at the table," she said. “It’s how we will make it a sustainable program.”

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