Legislature challenges legality of Brown’s greenhouse gas emissions order

Jerry BrownWhen Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order a year ago this week establishing even more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the action won broad applause from Democrats who support his aggressive agenda targeting climate change. Brown’s order required a 40 percent cut from the 1990 level of emissions by 2030, matching commitments made by European Union members, and decreed that the state’s cap-and-trade program would extend beyond its scheduled 2020 sunset.

But there was also some eye-rolling. How could a governor who will be out of office in January 2019 possibly impose binding conditions on future chief executives and Legislatures beyond those established in AB32 and other emission-focused legislation formally adopted by the Assembly and Senate?

Now it turns out that the Legislature’s top attorney — Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine — shares this skepticism. Last week, state Senate Minority Leader Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, released a letter by Boyer-Vine responding to her questions about whether Brown could change state law by fiat.

“We think the determination of a standard for the statewide (greenhouse gas) emissions limit is a fundamental policy decision that only the Legislature can make,” Boyer-Vine wrote. She noted that under state law, the Legislature couldn’t assign sole policy-making authority on the issue to the governor even if it wanted to.

The California Air Resources Board defended the legality of the governor’s order with a statement that didn’t address the specific legal points made by Boyer-Vine.

“While the 2020 limit is an important first step in measuring progress, climate change will not end in 2020 and AB32 explicitly states the intent to ‘maintain and continue reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases beyond 2020,’” a spokesman told the Sacramento Bee.

Echoes of D.C. fights — with one big difference

The emerging battle has crucial similarities to the fights over executive authority in Washington, where Republican lawmakers have backed lawsuits challenging President Obama’s orders on immigration, pollution and other issues. But one big difference is that the Sacramento scrum is over a policy area in which California’s legislative and executive branches are generally in sync: greenhouse gas reduction.

But an Associated Press story about Boyer-Vine’s opinion hinted at why Brown prefers a unilateral approach to either deferring to or working with the Legislature on a measure expanding upon AB32 a decade after its passage:

Overturning the executive order would be a blow to Brown’s effort to establish a legacy and a global identity as a crusader against climate change. …

While Democrats maintain overwhelming control of the Legislature, Brown would face difficulty winning legislative approval for his emissions targets. A group of moderate Democrats in the Assembly has sided with business interests against efforts by Brown and conservation groups to create stronger environmental protections.

“The Legislature should not advance the cap-and-trade program under this dark legal cloud,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.


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  1. Ronald
    Ronald 25 April, 2016, 08:36

    Governor Brown is one of the leaders of the emission crusade, but he has NOT been transparent about any progress in reducing California emissions !!

    California’s flagship climate change policy Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Initiative was signed into law in 2006 when CA was contributing 1% to the worlds GHG’s.  And now, 10 years later, CA still contributes a miniscule 1 percent ( 1%) and has had little to no impact on the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.

    Yet, CA, by avoiding transparency of the results of the CA emissions crusade, the states only focus is how to spend the BILLIONS of cap and trade TAXES they receive. There remains no progress in CA reducing its contribution to the Worlds Greenhouse gasses.

    The subsidized “renewable” energy sources such as wind and solar are ONLY able to provide intermittent “electricity” to the grid, but neither can produce the chemicals and chemical by-products from crude oil that are required to manufacture the components required of all the industries and infrastructures.

    Unless you’re a caveman hiking in Yosemite, barefoot and naked, virtually everything you see, touch, and use in your daily lives is derived from the benefits of our use of one or more of the fossil fuels; oil, coal and gas. Fossil fuel energy has been the foundation of the industrialization of civilization from the development of machinery and products for every industry and infrastructure.

    The crusade for “green” electric power for the grid alone, will effectively de-industrialize the infrastructure industries of America and drive up unemployment.

    The public, especially the homeless and poor that are paying dearly for the emissions crusade efforts of the AQMD and ARB deserves to know if there is any progress over the last decade in reducing California’s 1% contribution to the world’s greenhouse gases.

    Reply this comment
  2. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 18 May, 2016, 07:49

    Like all liberals Moonbeam is so full of N Hot Air if he did’nt wear lead shoes and a lead belt he would float up and away into the upper stratosphear

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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