Energy

Enviro Group Calls California’s Cap And Trade Expansion A Giveaway To The Oil Industry

Environmentalist groups believe that California’s cap-and-trade program does too little to punish the state’s fossil fuel industries.

Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers released a plan Monday to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program through 2030, which forces companies to pay a price for emitting greenhouse gasses, but environmentalists argue that the oil industry had too much input in crafting the deal.

“The oil lobby has had way too much influence on this legislation,” Bill Magavern, policy director of the Coalition for Clean Air, told reporters Monday morning. He was alluding to various provisions within the program that allow some companies free allowances throughout the next decade.

The deal will reduce the free allowances by 40 percent, starting in 2030.

California is slated to sell-off allowances through auctions starting this August. The state is doling out some allowances for free to help them remain competitive and avoid price spikes for consumers. Industry groups say the provision will help California residents dealing with already high gas prices.

Companies can also offset their emissions through projects designed to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases. Money from the program goes into a greenhouse gas reduction fund propping up energy conservation efforts, and housing projects, as well high-speed rail, a pet project Brown has pushed for years.

Still, Brown suggests that the extension supports the state’s effort to reduce pollution in low-income neighborhoods. “The Legislature is taking action to curb climate change and protect vulnerable communities from industrial poisons,” the Democratic governor said in a statement announcing the deal.

The deal will need 27 votes in the Senate and 54 in the Assembly to pass.  Some Assembly Democrats are unlikely to support the bill’s soft-peddling on the free allowances. Brown has acknowledged that he will need Republicans to support the measure.

Democrats were generally unsupportive of Brown’s concerted push for cap-and-trade. They worry 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 in May that there were “no plans to take up a cap and trade reauthorization bill anytime soon.” He noted that lawmakers are “gas tax weary” about the possibility of shoving through another vote so quickly after Democrats moved to raise the state gas tax for road repairs.

Citizens have 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. The recent gas tax might be one of the reasons for the provision allowing oil companies free allowances.

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

Brown and other Democratic lawmakers are working to change some of the rules governing recall efforts. The governor pushed a measure in late June allowing voters up to 30 days to remove their signature from a recall petition. He said the bill provides an opportunity for “people who have been hoodwinked” to change their mind.

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