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KPBS Midday Edition

California Lawmakers Approve Extension Of Climate Change Law

Chris Carlson
/
AP
File photo of the sun setting on a power generating plant in Huntington Beach, Aug. 31, 2006.

California Lawmakers Approve Extension Of Climate Change Law
California Lawmakers Approve Extension Of Climate Change Law GUEST:Katie Orr, politics and government reporter, KQED

Our top story on Midday Edition, two major additions to California climate action policies have made their way into Governor Jerry Brown's desk. And he says he intends to sign them. The first expanse and extends California greenhouse gas reduction targets and the second measure is made up of several policies designed to ensure equity in climate action programs for disadvantaged communities. Joining me is Katie Orr politics and government reporter at KQED. Thank you for having me. Earlier this year, it didn't seem either measure had enough traction to get to the governor's desk. Here is what Governor Brown said about the pace of legislation. Legislation is not like Twitter. You do not do it with 140 characters or in a few seconds. It takes months and sometimes years. It takes trying and failing amending and trying again. Negotiation. Do we know, Katie what pushed the legislation forward? I want to say first sometimes it takes me a month to compose a tweet, [ Laughter ], He was not talking about me. I think like many things here in the capital, the deadline helps. Although you could argue there really is not a specific deadline for this legislation because the current greenhouse gas emissions target is set in 2020. However, the legislative session winding down, I think they were able to find some common ground, someone in the Senate told me over last weekend the governor, the Senate leader and the assembly leader team together and crafted language that they could all get behind. And something that complicates the movement of legislation in the assembly is that we are seeing more moderate business friendly Democrats. Who won't necessarily go along with some of the more traditionally liberal bills. That is always a point of negotiations. Is 10 it was interesting because assembly Bill 197 that regulates air resources Board was actually presented by assemblyman Eduardo Garcia from Coachella. He is an example of them trying to shift the narrative on climate change bills saying they are not liberal elite issues. These affect everyone throughout California. To California's original goal of reducing carbon emission levels to 1990 levels I 2020, that has already been widely praised, this new SB 32 raises the stakes doesn't? It says California needs to get to 40% below 1990 levels by the year 2030. That is very ambitious. Republicans are not super happy with this legislation. Assemblywoman Christine a Olson yesterday said the technology needed to get us there does not even exist right now. I cannot speak to whether or not that is actually true, but that gets to a lot of the angst that people feel. They are saying this could cost middle-class jobs, construction jobs, manufacturing jobs. I raised that question with Governor Jerry Brown yesterday and he basically said, was in the economy is evolving in the jobs we have will adapt to meet whatever kind of economy we have. So we can't just sit back and take things as they are. We as lawmakers get to say what we want the economy to be. He said if we want more electric cars will get more electric cars. If we let dirty gas cars be the way we get around, then that is what we will get. He really defended the government's role in pushing these policies forward. Assembly Bill 197 contains a mix of proposals. You alluded to the fact it was trying to reach out and get climate action to address concerns of disadvantaged communities in California as well. How does it do that next It says it has to keep those communities in mind when it creates policies that will regulate the climate and air pollution and things of that nature. I think there was a lot of criticism from Republicans and those that do not support the bill say the air resources board is out of control and this might not necessarily be the best way to bring them in and there were people who supported it say we get it. This is not a perfect bill but we have to start somewhere. I think, as the years go on we will see these rules tweaked here and there. But again it gets to the message that Democrats are trying to push that climate change is not just about people on the coast driving a previous, it is about -- Prius, it is about people that live next the factories whose lives are being affected. In the climate bill programs, what makes these so important, Katie? California leads the way on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and trying to fight change. California leaders, Governor Jerry Brown is certainly among them, speaker Kevin daily low from the Senate and Anthony Rendon have all made climate change a priority. I think they see California as pushing the limit on what you can expect the government to do in terms of fighting climate change. I have been speaking with Katie Orr politics and government reporter at KQED. Thank you. You are welcome.

California lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend the state's landmark climate change law — the most aggressive in the nation — by another 10 years, resisting fierce opposition from oil companies and other business interests to keep the program alive at least through 2030.

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Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, a strong advocate of the state's climate initiatives, has said he'll sign the bill when it comes to his desk.

The move keeps alive the legal framework that underpins California's wide-ranging efforts to fight climate change, from a tax on pollution to zero-emission vehicle mandates and restrictions on the carbon content of gasoline and diesel fuel.

"We can wean ourselves from a fossil fuel 20th Century to a renewably fueled 21st Century, which is where we all know we need to get if we're going to have a planet on which to live in the decades ahead," Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said.

SB32 passed in the Senate on a 25-13 vote, a day after it won crucial support from business-minded Democratic lawmakers in the state Assembly with encouragement from the White House.

In 2006, California set an ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, when the initial effort would end. SB32 sets a new goal to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. It is tied to the fate of another bill, AB197, to provide greater legislative oversight of the appointed Air Resources Board, which is responsible for executing the law. The Assembly approved that bill Wednesday, sending it to Brown.

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Democratic lawmakers celebrated the victory, saying it ensures California will continue to be a pioneer in the global fight against climate change.

Passage of the bill is a major victory for Brown, who has traveled the world promoting California's climate change programs and staked his legacy on his ability to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

In its journey through the Legislature, the bill got just one Republican vote, from a lawmaker who represents a strongly Democratic district in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Republicans contend the law has raised prices for consumers without making a substantial dent in the volume of global climate emissions. Higher energy prices are particularly harmful in the inland Central Valley, where summers are hotter and winters colder than in the coastal cities where Democrats dominate, said Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford.

"It's shameful when coastal elites have no sympathy for the middle class and the working poor who do not live on the coast," Vidak said.

Still, passage of the bill would not settle the legal or economic uncertainty surround the state's highest profile carbon-reduction effort, a tax on carbon known as cap-and-trade, which requires polluters to buy permits to emit greenhouse gases.

The program is being challenged in court by the California Chamber of Commerce, which argues it's a tax that should have been approved by two-thirds of the lawmakers in each legislative chamber. Its lawsuit is pending in a state appeals court.

After consistently selling out, generating billions of dollars in revenue for the state, California's last two permit actions have sputtered. State officials said Tuesday that just over a third of the available permits were sold in an auction last week.

The expiring global warming law has hung in the balance as Brown and the Legislature approved a budget this year and negotiated Democratic priorities. The Brown administration and other Democrats lowered expectations that SB32 would find enough support earlier this month. While the Senate approved an even more ambitious extension last year, moderate Democrats in the Assembly balked.

As Brown and his allies scrambled to round up support, several moderate Democrats who previously refused to support the legislation said they received calls from Jerry Abramson, deputy assistant to the president and White House director of intergovernmental affairs, urging them to support it.