CA Dems split on legislation mandating emissions cuts

Landmark climate legislation has run aground in Sacramento, hobbled by a rebellion among Democrats skittish of being tied by constituents to the potential economic impact of further mandated emissions cuts.

Inadequate support

Jerry BrownThe unanticipated struggle threw supporters of the bill, including Gov. Jerry Brown, onto the defensive, with lawmakers scrambling to appease holdouts without gutting their bill. “Senate Bill 32 seeks to ramp up the state’s emission reduction goals by cutting greenhouse gases to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below the 1990 mark by 2050,” the Sacramento Bee reported. A raft of amendments tightening legislative oversight over the mandate-enforcing Air Resources Board was granted by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, but recalcitrant Democrats still balked, either abstaining or voting against the bill “on a 25-33 vote, with 21 members abstaining, that featured no debate. ”

Pavley and company get another bite at the apple, however, teeing up some potentially marathon negotiations. But the bill’s showing augured trouble for SB350, the biggest piece of emissions legislation on offer, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. That bill “would set 2030 as the target for the state to cut petroleum use in half, boost energy efficiency in buildings by 50 percent and require the state to get half of its electricity from renewable sources,” the Chronicle noted.

Redoubled efforts

The divide has driven Brown, often poised between the party’s liberal wing and legislative Republicans, into a different negotiating mode. Along with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, he huddled with Senate leader Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, for over two hours, as the Los Angeles Times reported, declining to answer reporters’ questions on the way out of de Leon’s office.

Aside from the substantial practical effects of the bill, its Democratic supporters were poised to work overtime to secure its passage because of its outsized symbolic and political value. Gov. Brown has emerged as one of the world’s most vociferous advocates for using policy to curb carbon emissions; around the country, policymakers and observers have placed great weight on California’s ability to demonstrate a workable model for taking that kind of aggressive action.

As the Wall Street Journal observed, “California produces about 1.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. But the state has long been a bellwether on environmental regulations, passing landmark laws that are copied by other states and become templates for federal environmental rules.” Leading Democrats have been well aware of the level of expectation set for the latest round of emission legislation.

“The rest of the world is watching very closely what is happening in California,” de León told the New York Times, “and I think so far they see a success story. Our economy has grown — we are adding jobs, and we are reducing our carbon emissions. Therefore it is absolutely crucial that this measure passes, because it will be a big blow to the rest of the states and the whole world if it doesn’t.”

But as the Times observed, those sentiments were not as broadly shared as he and Gov. Brown had hoped — especially within their own party. “The concerns have come not only from Republicans, but also from moderate Democrats who represent communities in central California,” the paper noted. “Many of these communities are struggling with high unemployment and slow economic growth.”

Ironic progress

Despite his last-minute scrambling, Brown has expressed confidence that California will continue to lead in accordance with his policies regardless of how the legislation fares. But that reflected the ironic way in which changing emissions standards already hardwired into law could give wary Democrats an out in voting against SB32 and SB350.

As Paul Rogers noted in the San Jose Mercury News, California will reach key environmental goals “even if it does nothing. That’s because of federal rules put into place in 2009 by President Barack Obama to double the gas mileage standards for new U.S. vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.”

What’s more, covering other ground within the scope of the new legislation could be achieved “simply by enforcing — and in some cases strengthening — existing laws passed over the last 15 years to boost electric cars, promote mass transit and reduce the amount of carbon in fuels, according to experts who have done the math,” Rogers argued.

6 comments

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  1. spurwing Plover
    spurwing Plover 10 September, 2015, 07:46

    Moonbeam can set a example by keeping his piehole closed and cutting back on the Hot Air

    Reply this comment
    • Bubba
      Bubba 10 September, 2015, 10:18

      You got that right! He should worry more about people getting shot in Sanctuary cities by Illegal’s and forgetting about his “Train to from Nowhere to Nowhere””

      Reply this comment
    • Turthafuss
      Turthafuss 10 September, 2015, 13:35

      Yep. Brown, who way back sometime in another time warp, on another planet, was considered sort of smart, is now in the same category as Pelosi and Reid. He is now totally nuts and should be in an institution not heading one.

      Reply this comment
  2. Sean
    Sean 10 September, 2015, 07:54

    Perhaps this is another point of tension between the haves and have nots within the Democratic party. Politics seems dominated by wealthy liberal Democrats but they rely on the votes from impoverished constituencies to keep their majorities. Laws such as SB 32 will make energy more expensive and will likely result in fewer options for places to live. Couple that with the way money for low performing schools might end up mostly as teacher salary increases and you have the ingredients of a revolt within the party. The elimination of the oil cap has been declared a victory by big oil but it’s really California’s very high poverty rate that’s driving legislators’ votes.

    Reply this comment
  3. CA Native
    CA Native 10 September, 2015, 09:17

    I wonder if Jerry has done the math?? California’s contribution to global manmade CO2 is .00001152%, plus or minus:) So what Jerry is saying is that if CA reduces its global emissions to .00000576%, we can celebrate. Sorry, Jerry, but I need you to convince me of this through a cost-benefit analysis…..and not done by the same characters who analyzed the bullet train.

    Reply this comment
  4. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 10 September, 2015, 13:29

    Sorry but turning our major cities into sacuary cities should be a act of treason

    Reply this comment

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