Initiative targets cap-and-trade

March 5, 2010


California’s version of “cap-and-trade” is under attack – again. But this time, it’s in the form of a ballot initiative, and not proposed legislation that has thus far, been easily killed.

Cap-and-trade, measures created to reduce global warming, were signed into law in 2006 in AB32, California’s Global Warming Initiative. AB32 was supposed to establish a statewide greenhouse gas emissions cap for 2020, based on 1990 emissions.

At the time AB 32 was signed in 2006, unemployment in the state was 4.8 percent. California’s unemployment is currently at 12.3 percent, and even dramatically higher in some small San Joaquin Valley towns, where unemployment can hit 47 percent.

AB32 contains a provision allowing the governor to delay implementation or suspend it in the event of extraordinary circumstances including “significant economic harm.” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill in 2006, and according to the AB32-suspension initiative’s author Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, refuses to order suspension “regardless of the double-digit unemployment, another looming deficit, and Draconian emissions standards that will be imposed on California’s vehicles and businesses.”

Logue authored the ballot initiative that will suspend AB32 until California’s unemployment rate is once again, under 5.5 percent. Logue and Ted Costa from The People’s Advocate, submitted a ballot initiative titled California Jobs Initiative, to Attorney General Jerry Brown (and Candidate for Governor) for title & summary. The initiative was given a lengthy new name by Brown, which could be mistaken for the summary: “Suspends air pollution control laws requiring major polluters to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.”

A 2009 study by economists at California State University, Sacramento, commissioned by the California Small Business Roundtable, found that implementation costs for AB32 “could easily exceed $100 billion” and that the program would raise the cost of living by $7,857 per household each year by 2020.

The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) published its position about the effects of suspending AB32 in a letter to Brown  in January. The LAO concluded that during the time period of the suspension of AB32, since state agencies would be prohibited from adopting new regulations, and “some regulatory activities would likely be suspended,” businesses would avoid the costs associated with AB32 which “might allow some businesses to avoid significant investments they might otherwise be mandated to make in new energy technologies, and could lead to net profits for these firms.” The LAO concluded that this “could result in lower energy prices for consumers” and would have “positive economic impacts on the state.”

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has already begun creating and adopting regulations, and assigning fees to those regulations to be paid by businesses and individuals that emit greenhouse gasses. Most of the implementation by CARB is scheduled to take place in 2010 according to the CARB Implementation Scoping Plan (here), including motor vehicle air conditioning systems plan, tire pressure program and low carbon fuel standard plan.

Logue is also critical of AB32 because of the recent “Climategate” scandal, which revealed doctored information from the environmental science community. “The science that CARB based its decisions on has been found to be fraudulent, including one of the lead CARB agents with a phony Ph.D,” explained Logue.

A 2009 survey by Pew Charitable Trusts found Global Warming last on a list of America’s top 20 concerns, with only 28 percent of respondents saying that they “believe it is a serious issue.” In comparison, 45 percent of respondents said that “moral decline” was a serious issue while “terrorism” was important to 80 percent of respondents.

Opponents of Logue’s measure signed a letter in January addressed to Assembly member Nancy Skinner, chairwoman of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, in opposition to Logue’s earlier anti-AB32 bill AB118, stating, “This bill, gutted and amended just this week, is part of a statewide campaign to stymie California’s economic recovery and deny workers the opportunity to benefit from the emerging new energy economy.  Mr. Logue, along with Rep. Tom McClintock and the association founded by Paul Gann, have filed an initiative nearly identical to AB118 with the California Attorney General’s office with the intention of circulating it for signatures to qualify for the November 2010 general election.”

Explaining their opposition, the environmental and conservation groups wrote, “AB118 would impose economic harm, damage public health and threaten California’s competitive advantage as a first actor in the global race to a clean energy economy,” and that suspension of AB32 “would cause economic distress and create an uncertain business environment for thousands of California employers who have played by the rules by investing in clean technology, setting up training programs, retooling equipment and taking other actions to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and stimulate the economy.”

The letter is signed by “public interest organizations,” including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club California and The Nature Conservancy.

Logue explained that his initiative is “about jobs, and not rationing, which is just another word for conserving.” Logue is quick to defend suspension of AB32 because “we only want jobs for Californians: green jobs, blue jobs, gray jobs.”  Logue argued that the initiative’s opponents are not conservationists, “They are professional rationists. They want to dictate what resources Californians can use, and how much.”

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