Senate to turn up heat on gov. to fight global warming
Impatient with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leadership in combating global warming, leaders of the Democratic-controlled state Senate plan to unveil a sweeping legislative package today that would impose new regulations on industries and government agencies.
The measures reflect long-standing tensions between Schwarzenegger and the Legislature over how best to reduce greenhouse gases produced by vehicles, electricity suppliers, landfills and other sources.
Since the passage and signing last year of California’s landmark greenhouse gas law, which called for a combination of regulations and possible market-based solutions, Schwarzenegger has met with leaders from other countries and states to promote creation of trading markets to allow industries to buy and sell emissions credits.
Leading Senate Democrats successfully fought inclusion of a mandatory market trading system in last year’s law, Assembly Bill 32, but now contend that the Republican governor is promoting it while moving too slowly on regulation.
They and Assembly leaders also objected when Schwarzenegger signed an executive order last fall placing his appointee, state Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Linda Adams, in charge of climate policy. Legislators pointed out that AB 32 specifically gave the independent Air Resources Board authority for implementing the policy, not Cal/EPA.
Sen. President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland), who is spearheading at least five of the bills to be introduced, sharply criticized Schwarzenegger’s approach Wednesday.
“The implementation of Assembly Bill 32 is getting bogged down in arcane discussions over intercontinental trading schemes, ‘carbon markets’ and free ‘credits’.... That may work for Wall Street traders and Enron economists, but it doesn’t work for Californians.”
According to drafts of the bills obtained by The Times, the proposed regulations would ban methane releases from garbage dumps and sharply curtail black carbon spewed from trucks, school buses and construction equipment.
Utilities could be ordered to increase the amount of energy acquired from renewable sources to 33% from 20%.
State and local transportation agencies would be required to draw up plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions in their jurisdictions, funded in part by bond money approved by voters last year.
“Senate Democrats are unveiling new bills to ensure our climate program actually cleans up the air, reduces asthma and reduces greenhouse gases without market gimmicks and trading schemes,” Perata said.
Schwarzenegger, who held a news conference with Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain at the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday to push for a national low-carbon fuel standard similar to one he has mandated for the state, was unavailable for comment.
But Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the governor, said Schwarzenegger continues to favor a market approach. “The governor feels we need to achieve our reductions through market-based solutions,” McLear said.
Adams, who was at the event with Schwarzenegger, said she had not seen the bills, but said of the governor, “he’s doing plenty in California.... California is the leader on this. The whole world is watching us.”
She added that she and the governor had worked “very cooperatively with the Legislature” on the original law, and said, “We are moving forward on regulatory approaches as well as market approaches. We feel very strongly we do need to move forward with every possible tool.”
As for her role, Adams insisted that existing state law gave her the responsibility for climate policy.
The bills will need to win support not just in the Senate, but from the Assembly and ultimately the governor, who could veto them. Perata spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the senator’s staff had briefed Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez’s staff and planned to work with him.
A Nunez spokesman was noncommittal, saying, “The pioneering global warming bill we passed last year with the governor’s support is the gold standard in reducing greenhouse gases. If these measures dovetail into what we’ve done, are practical and don’t hinder the process that’s been hammered out, then they may well win support in the Assembly.”
V. John White, head of the Sacramento-based Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology, said that he had been advising the Senate on the bills and that they would be an important addition to last year’s legislation. “They’re also timely,” White said, “because of the need to remind the governor and his administration of the importance of including direct emissions reductions.”
He said that both energy credit trading and mandatory regulations were needed to bring down greenhouse gas emissions statewide.
Several business leaders said they had not seen details of the legislation.
Kent Stoddard, a spokesman for Waste Management International, the state’s largest trash and recycling operator, said his industry was already subject to strict regulations on capturing methane and carbon dioxide from landfills -- gases believed to be accelerating the melting of glaciers. But he said, “We were early and big supporters of AB 32, so we’ll be very interested in working with the Senate on this package.”
He said the company also believes that both mandatory and market-based measures are needed to slow global warming, provided the regulatory mandates are “reasonable.”
But Vine Sollitto, spokesman for the California Chamber of Commerce, which initially opposed the original greenhouse gas law but now backs a market-based approach, said there was a good chance it would not support the latest legislation. He said the measures could increase costs to consumers while providing little additional environmental benefit.
“California must implement its emission law in a way that maximizes the rewards to our environment, while minimizing the risk to our economy. The way to do that is to use market mechanisms to provide incentives ... not one-size-fits-all, ‘government knows best’ command and control decrees.”