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Groups Slam Cap-and-Trade Deal as Too Industry-Friendly

Low-income communities often bear the brunt of air pollution, so California environmental groups are pushing for more cleanup efforts in those areas. (World Architecture)
Low-income communities often bear the brunt of air pollution, so California environmental groups are pushing for more cleanup efforts in those areas. (World Architecture)
July 19, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign a package of bills that passed the Legislature on Monday and will extend the state's cap-and-trade program through 2030. The cap-and-trade system encourages industry to clean up its act by putting a price on carbon emissions, but environmental groups say Big Oil got too many concessions.

Amy Vanderwarker, co-director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, said the governor should have started with a bolder vision to move away from oil and gas - and then could negotiate, rather than meeting behind closed doors with big companies from the start.

"There has to be a transition off of fossil fuels," she said, "and there has to be a transition to regenerative economies that actually put people and the planet first instead of profits for our largest corporations in the world, who are the very drivers of the issue we are trying to solve."

Vanderwarker faulted the primary bill, Assembly Bill 398, for preventing local air-quality management districts from further regulating carbon emissions from stationary sources such as heavy industry and power plants. Brown has defended the package, saying it's the best he could do and still achieve the main goal of extending the program, which had to pass by a two-thirds margin and thus required bipartisan support.

Alvaro Sanchez, environmental equity director for the Greenlining Institute, said the devil will be in the details, He urged regulators to prioritize the needs of low-income communities that stand to bear the brunt of climate impacts first - and worst.

"We need to make sure that the revenues generated by cap-and-trade are directed at much higher levels to the communities that are burdened the most," he said, "so that they can benefit the greatest."

A companion bill from the Republican caucus also passed. It places a measure on the June 2018 ballot asking voters to make any major expenditures from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund subject to a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, starting in 2024.

Details of AB 398 are online at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.

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Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA