Thursday, July 14, 2016

Governor Brown's end-run

SF Chronicle

by Dan Walters
July 5, 2016

Gov. Jerry Brown, stymied in the Legislature, will attempt to extend the state’s crackdown on carbon emissions into the next decade by decree.

Late Friday, Brown’s Air Resources Board dispatched a memo declaring that it would unveil a draft of new regulations next Tuesday, extending its troubled cap-and-trade program and other elements of the campaign beyond 2020.

It will ignite what could be a protracted political and legal battle over whether the ARB has the authority to act, or must obtain legislative authorization.

The 2006 legislation that authorized the war on carbon, Assembly Bill 32, specifically aims to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. But the administration contends that AB 32 authorizes action beyond that date, relying on its stated intention to “maintain and continue reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases beyond 2020.”

However, the next sentence in the law says the ARB “shall make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature on how to continue reductions of greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020,” which implies that it needs reauthorization.

Senate Republican leader Jean Fuller obtained an opinion from the Legislature’s legal counsel that the law “does not authorize (the ARB) or the governor to set an emission limit after 2020 that is lower than” AB 32’s 1990 target level.

Legal and political uncertainty about the program beyond 2020 has been, analysts say, a major factor in the implosion of the quarterly auction of cap-and-trade emission allowances as speculators dump allowances that could become worthless.

May’s auction generated just 2 percent of expected sales of state-owned allowances, undermining Brown’s $3.1 billion spending plan, including $500 million for his financially strapped bullet train project...(emphasis added)

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