Lawmakers move quickly on Brown’s bold environmental agenda 

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2015

California’s legislative leaders are moving quickly to execute ambitious climate change goals that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) proposed last month.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D) is unveiling a package of bills today that is intended to achieve Brown’s stated goals of reducing petroleum use by as much as half, increasing the state’s share of renewable electricity to 50 percent and doubling the efficiency of existing buildings by 2030 (E&ENews PM, Jan. 5).

The centerpiece of the plan will be a bill by Sen. Fran Pavley (D), the author of the original 2006 law that set a greenhouse gas emissions target of 1990 levels by 2020 — a target that the state is on track to meet.

The new bill, S.B. 32, would set a target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Another bill, by De Leon and Sen. Mark Leno (D), would address electricity, buildings and petroleum use. Another De Leon bill would require the state’s massive public pension funds to divest from coal, while one by Sen. Ben Hueso (D) would form a commission to invest money in creating jobs tied to clean energy.

Brown said he welcomed the legislative proposals.

“The Pro Tem and I share a strong commitment to dealing with climate change in an aggressive and imaginative way,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the legislature to hammer out the details.”

The bills are facing immediate opposition from fossil fuel producers. The Western States Petroleum Association, which includes BP PLC, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and other major petroleum producers, slammed the petroleum goal in particular.

“A mandate to reduce petroleum consumption by 50 percent is an impossibly unrealistic goal,” said WSPA President Cathy Reheis-Boyd. “History tells us two things: Mandates designed to achieve a goal of this magnitude will require unacceptably coercive restrictions on our mobility choices and will be crushingly expensive.”

But it’s unclear how much clout the oil companies have with legislative leaders, despite lavish political spending. WSPA spent $8.9 million on lobbying in California last year, according to state records (EnergyWire, Feb. 5).

The proposals will face a tempering influence from moderate Democrats such as Assemblyman Henry Perea, who has sought to delay state climate policies. Perea sponsored a bill last year that would have postponed the inclusion of transportation fuels in the state’s cap-and-trade program.

In an interview, Perea said he was concerned about the proposals’ economic effect on state residents, particularly in his Central Valley district.

“There are two sort of big-picture questions we need to be thinking about here,” he said. “As we move forward with these policies, who pays, who benefits?”

Perea said he supported energy efficiency but was wary of broad-brush efforts to increase renewables or cut petroleum. He cited natural-gas-fueled trucks as an example of a petroleum-based technology that could serve as a bridge to lower-carbon transportation. On electricity, he said a general greenhouse gas standard could save utilities money, as opposed to a target of a certain percentage of renewable electricity.

“We’re going to have about nine months to debate that,” he said.

Electric utilities have signaled initial support but also plan to take an active role in the negotiations.

“We look forward to working with the governor, the Legislature and stakeholders to reach the state’s carbon reduction goals in a manner that manages costs for our customers, ensures grid reliability and creates a model program for others to follow,” PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said. “We appreciate the governor’s leadership and look forward to this collaborative effort.”

Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D), the chairman of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, will also appear at today’s announcement. He is planning an oversight hearing focusing on climate change adaptation, to take place Feb. 25.