Energy

California Passes Cap And Trade Extension On Razor-Thin Margin

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Chris White Tech Reporter

California passed Monday night legislation extending a cap and trade program that some of the state’s lawmakers believe could raise gas prices on the poorest citizens.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s cap and trade bill received enough support in the senate and assembly to pass the proposal and shift the legislation to the governor’s desk. The law extends past California’s 2020 climate measure, essentially gifting the governor a major victory before leaving office in 2018.

Brown lobbied hard for the bill, and claimed passing the measure would place California on the forefront of the climate crusade.

“Republicans and Democrats set aside their differences, came together and took courageous action,” he told reporters after the measure passed. “That’s what good government looks like.”

Twenty-eight senators voted in favor of the bill — one more than needed. It also needed 54 votes to survive the assembly; the bill got 55. Only one Republican in the senate crossed party lines on the measure. Many of the bill’s opponents in the senate noted that California represents just 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Some Republicans even claimed Brown’s push would act as a type of tax on the poor. State Sen. Andy Vidak, for instance, said the extension represents a “regressive” tax that would not substantially impact the climate.

“We could shut down the entire state of California and it would have no effect on the global climate,” Vidak said. His Democratic counterparts complained about the cap and trade extension earlier this month as well.

Democrats worried that the governor’s efforts on cap-and-trade 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 their lawmakers had “no plans to take up a cap and trade reauthorization bill anytime soon.” Many of them 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, he said.

Brown and the state’s Democrats signed 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. It was not a popular vote.

Some of the gas tax’s opponents contributed waves of signatures for a recall effort against Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman for his support of the tax, and another lawmaker wants to repeal the unpopular gas tax. Democrats have changed some of the rules governing recalls to help supply cover for Newman.

Activists were similarly fired up about the cap and trade measure. Environmentalists, for instance, believed Brown watered down the bill too much to pull in weary Democrats. Some of the provisions within the program allow companies free allowances throughout the next decade.

Still, Brown used his fellow lawmaker’s concerns about the climate and fears of a Trump administration’s possible effect on the environment to gain support. He pushed the issue after President Donald Trump detached the U.S. from the non-binding Paris climate agreement, a move that activists and Democrats called monstrous.

Brown forged a complex coalition of states committed to approving planks of the deal shortly after the president’s move. He sold the cap and trade measure as a type of bonding agent adhering together all the states concerned about the absence of the Paris accord.

The non-binding agreement, which former President Barack Obama signed in 2015, commits each country in the deal to lower greenhouse gas emissions that scientists believe are causing man-made global warming. Nicaragua and the U.S. are among the handful of countries that have chosen to opt out of the agreement.

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