Dems Push Back Against California Gov Jerry Brown’s Newest Climate Crusade

Chris White | Energy Reporter

California Democrats warn Gov. Jerry Brown not to push for a cap and trade program so soon after vulnerable state legislators passed a highly contentious gas tax increase April.

Brown’s full-throated push to shoehorn a cap and trade program requiring companies to purchase permits before releasing greenhouse gasses is causing Democrats in the state to recoil. They worry that the governor’s efforts could thrust already vulnerable lawmakers out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Kip Lipper, an environmental advisor for Senate leadership wrote in an email Thursday that there were “no plans to take up a cap and trade reauthorization bill anytime soon.”

Lipper noted that lawmakers are “gas tax weary” about the possibility of shoving through another vote so quickly after their unpopular move to raise the state’s gas tax for road repairs.

Brown’s office remains defiant. He wants to move quickly on the proposal, and has shown a willingness to paint opponents of both the gas tax increase and cap and trade as supporters of Republican President Donald Trump.

“This is not a time for retreat or a time to give aid and comfort to Donald Trump by undermining a pillar of California’s bold program to arrest climate change,” Camille Wagner, Brown’s legislative secretary, told reporters Friday.

“If California’s Cap and Trade falls because we fail to act, climate denial wins.” she added. “Nothing is more important” than getting a deal as soon as possible.

Still, Brown has already faced heated resistance to his push to reach a deal on cap and trade by June. Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said earlier this year that, “we don’t have to extend it this year.”

Brown’s campaign on the cap and trade program comes as legislators haggle over the basics of the looming state budget, which is expected sometime June. Lawmakers want to lay low until angst from the gas tax increase dies down.

Citizens have already signaled their disdain for Brown’s signing of the Road Repair and Accountability Act, which imposes 12 cent per gallon increase on citizens, and raises the tax on diesel fuel by 20 cents a gallon.

They signed signatures for a recall effort against Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman for his support of the bedraggled laws, and another lawmaker is moving forward on an initiative to repeal the unpopular gas tax.

Democrats in the state legislature forced the measure along party lines. Only one Republican — state Sen. Anthony Cannella — voted in favor of the measure after receiving $500 million in kickbacks for a commuter rail extension in his district. However, Cannella’s Democratic colleagues are the targeted lawmakers being.

Republican legislators accused their Democratic colleagues earlier this month of breaking their promise to Californians to not divert the gas tax to ancillary projects not connected to road repairs.

The law directs about $1 billion of gas tax dollars towards things like public transportation and University of California research projects, among other things. Mark Dinger, a spokesman for California’s Depart of Transportation, admitted earlier this month that 30 percent of the funding will not go directly into the roads.

Some examples of the law’s non-road projects, Dinger added, are the $635 million set aside for transit rail projects, the $7 million for transportation research, and the $5 million allocated for workforce development grants.

Analysts believe that Brown’s cap and trade scheme could add even higher gas prices on California drivers.

If the state pushes forward with tougher climate goals, then the price of allowances for companies could rise from $14 to $50 over several years, according to Ross Brown from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. If that happens, analysts say, drivers could see a 45 cent increase on the price of a gallon of gasoline.

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