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Lawmakers will alter climate-change bills to boost oversight of Air Resources Board

Lawmakers will alter climate-change bills to boost oversight of Air Resources Board
Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), right, is working on legislation that would set long-term targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in California. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

With legislation to battle climate change facing a tough road in the Assembly, top state senators said Tuesday that they would make changes in an effort to alleviate some lawmakers' concerns that California's air regulator is gaining too much power.

The changes would increase legislative oversight of the Air Resources Board, which is responsible for implementing a wide array of policies intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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"It requires oversight," said Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), author of one climate bill. "These are complex issues."

Pavley wants to extend and tighten California's targets for reducing emissions, putting into law executive orders issued by Gov. Jerry Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

She would add a requirement that the Air Resources Board conduct a cost-benefit analysis of policies it has pursued and submit its regulations to lawmakers for review.

Pavley does not want to require legislative approval for new regulations, an idea some have suggested, but would give lawmakers an opportunity to provide input or guidance.

"If [regulators] are overreaching, it gives an opportunity to modify, delay, create new policies," Pavley said.

Pavley said the amendment reflects input from more than a dozen Assembly members whom she has met with to bolster support for the change.

Concerns that the Air Resources Board is too powerful have also been a hurdle for state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). He's pushing a bid to, among other goals, require that California's gasoline consumption be cut in half by 2030.

At a news conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, De León said that oil lobbyists were unfairly targeting the Air Resources Board, but that he had also had disagreements with the agency.

"Without a doubt," he said, the board warrants more oversight. "And I plan on doing that," he added. "We're working on amendments right now."

Twenty-one Assembly Democrats met with Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) on Monday to express concerns about De León's bill, according to several legislative sources who were present. They declined to be identified talking about a private meeting.

Some lawmakers presented a list of suggested changes, including removing the gasoline reduction mandate and replacing it with an overall emissions target for transportation.

Not everyone at the meeting supported the whole list, said one attendee, but concern about the Air Resources Board's latitude in enforcing climate policies was nearly universal.

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.

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