Governor Brown signs landmark climate bill

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, September 9, 2016

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) will signed a bill yesterday enshrining greenhouse gas targets in the nation’s most populous state through 2030.

The measure, S.B. 32 by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D), would require the state to reduce its carbon emissions to 40 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2030, the most aggressive target of any state.

A companion bill, A.B. 197 by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D), gives lawmakers more oversight of the California Air Resources Board, the agency charged with writing regulations to achieve the targets. Brown will sign both bills in a ceremony at Vista Hermosa Natural Park in Los Angeles.

S.B. 32 merely codifies an executive order that Brown signed in 2015. But having legislative support for the state’s climate goals insulates them against changes in political leadership under future administrations.

“SB 32’s 2030 goal will help make it possible to reach the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050,” Brown’s office said in a statement announcing the bill signing. The original 2020 target of 1990 emissions levels was set by Pavley’s 2006 bill, A.B. 32.

With the passage of S.B. 32, lawmakers achieved a goal that eluded them in last year’s session, when the focus was on a different measure that would have raised the state’s renewables portfolio standard to 50 percent and doubled the efficiency of existing buildings.

But it will likely take until at least next year to cement the legal authority for the policy that serves as the backstop for ensuring emissions reductions, as well as the backstop for compliance with U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan for existing power plants’ carbon emissions.

S.B. 32 does not explicitly authorize the continuance of the state’s economywide cap-and-trade program, due to a state law that requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes or fees.

That proved insurmountable for lawmakers, who balked at amending the bill to specifically authorize the use of market-based programs. State regulators are going ahead with revisions to the cap-and-trade program, though, as well as plans to extend the market past 2020 (ClimateWire, Aug. 25).