Skip to comments.CA: Sleight of hand: Greenhouse-gas law not quite what it seems (More smoke and mirrors?)
Posted on 03/08/2007 9:04:44 AM PST by NormsRevenge
California's first-in-the-nation law to curb greenhouse-gas emissions is developing behind the scenes differently than the Schwarzenegger administration's public pronouncements would suggest, with as much emphasis given to corporate economics as to scrubbing the air.
That focus was not contained in the original law that ordered cuts in carbon emissions--a law that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed last year to international acclaim.
Rather, it was part of the executive order he signed three weeks later that rearranged the chain of command over emission regulation; ordered a new, high-level advisory panel to develop a marketing scheme in which the polluters themselves determine emission reductions, and at least partly usurped the authority of the Air Resources Board. It dismantled key pieces of the very law he touted and, critics say, reneged on critical elements reached through lengthy negotiations by requiring the business-friendly market system to be set up along with the ARB regulations.
The business community, fearful that new regulations could disrupt the economy and cost jobs, support the governor's order.
"This bill was sold to California as a way to help the environment and help the economy. The best chance of achieving both of those goals is through the use of market mechanisms, as outlined in the governor's executive order, and not in the command-and-control mandates contained in some legislative proposals," said Vince Sollitto, spokesperson for the California Chamber of Commerce.
But environmentalists are critical, and so is Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill, who has targeted areas in which the order conflicts with state law. She noted the administration's assumption that pro-business "cap-and-trade" market is the best way to regulate greenhouse gases.
"However, when the administration was asked what evaluation led it to assume the inclusion of market-based measures [it] could cite only a bibliography of academic publications and the prevalence of market-based measures as part of [greenhouse gas] reduction programs in other jurisdictions." In other words, shorn of the jargon, the administration didn't do its homework.
The question of what comes first, writing the regulations or the creating a marketing system known as "cap and trade," is critical. If the regulations are first, then the state's air-quality enforcer, the ARB, shapes the greenhouse-gas law. If the marketing system comes first, or at the same time, than the state's principal economic players shape the law.
The original law, AB 32 by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, put the regulations first. The law spelled out the ARB's primacy. The executive order altered that.
"You have to be careful that you don't put the cart before the horse, and there was a real concern about discussing a cap-and-trade system first. The industry groups fought global warming regulations tooth and nail, but then once the writing was on the wall they started going to the table looking to set things up for their benefit," said Jason Barbose of Environment California.
Thus far, they have succeeded: The market advisory group said last week at one of its two scheduled public hearings that it was limiting its deliberations to devise only a cap and trade system. The hearing was Web cast, but no minutes or recordings of the panel's deliberations will be available to the public, and the panel's meetings are not subject to the state's open-meeting laws.
The next--and last--hearing of the panel will be in June, when it is expected to release its recommendation.
"No surprise here," wryly noted one business lobbyist. "What do you bet that it will be cap and trade?" One environmental advocate dismissed the proposal as "cap and charade."
Another, Lenny Goldberg of the Utility Reform Network, agreed.
"What it tells you is that they have their preconceived notion of what they want to do. There are no data, no experience, that shows cap and trade is effective. In fact, in Europe it was a big failure. So why do it here? Because industry thinks it is their way out, painless and costless," Goldberg said.
The thrust of the original law allows the ARB--the nation's premier air-pollution fighter--to evaluate the various ways to cut emissions and issue the rules accordingly by 2010. The law says a market mechanism can be used--but only if the ARB says so and only if certain safeguards are in place.
But the executive order, contrary to the law, says the marketing scheme should be approved alongside the rules--as sought by some business groups. "Cap and trade," the most common variant of that marketing system, allows polluters to buy credits from "clean" emitters to continue operating. Setting up the market quickly will enable to buy, sell or give potentially hundreds of millions of dollars worth of such credits. The theory is that as long as the overall emissions-reduction target is met--to below 1990 levels by the year 2020--it doesn't matter how it's done, whether by direct regulation or by the emitters themselves.
That possibility, according to Hill, doesn't fly without careful study and preparation--and the direct involvement of lawmakers.
Hill's assessment, contained in her analysis of the governor's 2006-07 budget plan, has drawn scant public attention. But within Sacramento's political, environmental and business communities, "To date, no California environmental regulatory agency has employed market-based mechanisms statewide," she said. She urged that lawmakers get involved in setting such a critical economic policy, rather than leave it to the marketing panel. She said the executive order unduly expands the authority of Linda Adams, Schwarzenegger's head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, and Hill recommended rejecting the governor's $1.4 million budget request for Adam's office. "It is premature to authorize funding and positions," she said, that will be used to augment Adam's power over crafting the greenhouse-gas rules.
Adams went before the Senate Rules Committee Wednesday and was quickly confirmed.
Not only does California's greenhouse-gas emissions law require carbon emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels in 13 years, it also contains numerous other less-publicized provisions. For example, the ARB is supposed to identify by June what actions can be taken quickly to cut emissions short term, and by October 2008, it is supposed to determine exactly what the 1990 carbon emissions level was--a critical figure.
But the focus of the debate to date has been over the tension between the original law and the executive order.
As reported February 22 in Capitol Weekly, legislation to turn the order into a state law has been introduced by Republican Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon. Houston hopes his bill, AB 6, will protect "cap and trade" after Schwarzenegger leaves office. Critics believe a hastily crafted cap-and-trade scheme, especially one in which the emissions credits are given freely, could hurt the marketplace.
"If you want a cap and trade market, you're going to have $2 billion to $3 billion right there on the table," Goldberg said.
What are they going to burn in the place of carbon?
Wal-Mart will be offering fake-carbon substitutes...made in China. Analysts have yet to say that what exactly this will be in them but the cost will be $14.99 per pack. It apparently burns well and is made in the far-reaches of Tibet by Tibetian monks. By purchasing these fake-carbon sub's...you are helping the world battle carbon usage and a dollar of each purchase goes to global warming chalets being built in Mongolia to house the 2009 Global Warming Conference. A new airport and 400 miles of new asphated roads are being built in honor of the conference and possibly even Mr. Gore attending. Rumor has it that he has personally requested a 3,000 sq ft special cabin be built with indoor poor and a private sauna.
If this thread gets wide attention, it will easily identify whether the replies were penned by a Republican, a conservative or the just plain gullible.
From my perspective, the Austrian's actions in this matter make him neither a Republican nor a liberal. They are, instead, the hallmark of a simple, political whore, following the money.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus