Air Quality Bill Stinks Up Capitol Hearing

MAY 3, 2011


Get ready for some really costly and restrictive environmental bills being passed through the Legislature with an anti-business-as-usual attitude, despite the foul economy in the state. Shooting out of the Senate Environmental Quality committee on a 5 to 1 vote on Monday was another global warming bill, SB 246. This one would require the state Air Resources Board to monitor and regulate sources of emissions of greenhouse gases affecting owners of cars, trucks, boats and lawn mowers — as well as sources in homes and businesses.

Authored by Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, SB 246 ironically discourages emission reductions and would significantly increases business costs as well as overall market uncertainty. It does so by imposing hefty new requirements on the development and use of compliance offsets in the cap-and-trade program under AB 32.

In SB 246, the state air board is required to adopt a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit equivalent to the statewide greenhouse gas emissions level in 1990, and achieve this by 2020.

This is a real stinker of a clean-air bill because this is the formal legislation allowing carbon offsets to be purchased — but not just any offsets. The offsets described in this bill “should be proven to be real and additional.” In order to accomplish this, the bill allows “market-based regulation that includes offsets which depends on strict oversight, verification, monitoring, and enforcement of the offsets program.” Get ready for the Air Quality Police.

Hitting Taxpayers

And all of this regulation and enforcement will cost taxpayers money. Any savings realized will be lost due to the duplication this bill presents, according to the California Chamber of Commerce. “This bill is unnecessary and is a duplication above what the ARB is already doing,” said the Cal Chamber representative at the hearing.

“Offsets” are greenhouse gas emission reductions from sources outside the cap-and-trade program. Because offsets can cost less than some potential emission reductions in capped sources, the offsets can reduce the cost of achieving the overall emissions target.

“ARB has sufficient direction in existing law to develop offset protocols and requirements or compliance offsets. There is no showing that the offset rules are in need of improvement by legislation such as SB 246,” wrote the signers of a letter addressed to the members of the Senate environmental quality committee.

Among those who opposed SB 246 and signed the letter were: the Cal Chamber, the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, the Building Owners & Managers Association of California, the California Business Properties Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Grocers Association, the California League of Food Processors, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, NAIOP of California (the Commercial Industry Development Association), the International Council of Shopping Centers the Western States Petroleum Association and the Wine Institute.

The ARB has characterized the efforts to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to 1990 levels as “a magnificent opportunity to transform California’s economy into one that runs on clean and sustainable technologies, so that all Californians are able to enjoy their rights to the future to clean air, clean water, and a healthy and safe environment.”

ARB Costs

But this will require enormous investments in renewable energy technologies, changes to vehicles despite market demands and expensive energy efficiency measures by home and business owners. And it will include restrictions on driving and perhaps other energy-using activities that will, no doubt, cost the taxpayers of the state far more than predicted.

“Not all offsets are created equal,” said Bill McGavern of the Sierra Club. The group reported that SB 246 “would help ensure that California avoids the fraud and other problems that have plagued global warming offset programs in other areas by improving the state’s quality control system for offsets.”

Also in support was the Union of Concerned Scientists, whose representative said that the ARB’s offset program needs to be strengthened.

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