Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

July 3, 2014
Perea bill would delay California cap-and-trade for gas

Thumbnail image for pereaedd.jpgDemocratic fissures over California's cap-and-trade mandates deepened on Thursday, with a key moderate Democrat introducing a bill to push back a looming rule expected to cause a spike in prices at the pump.

Assembly Bill 69 by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, would delay for three years a rule requiring the energy industry to purchase permits for transportation fuels. Lawmakers and critics have been warning for months about a resulting price bump.

California's landmark emissions-reducing law, AB 32, erected a first-in-the-nation carbon permitting program. The cap-and-trade program allows industry to buy allowances offsetting the climate change-fueling greenhouse gases they pour into the air.

The new system has already begun generating millions in revenue, with this year's budget dedicating the new revenue stream to a mix of affordable housing, mass transit and the high-speed rail project championed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

But the coming inclusion of transportation fuel into the program is threatening to push gas prices up, prompting alarm from pro-business Democrats. In a show of broad discontent, 16 Democrats last week sent a letter to the Air Resources Board urging the air quality regulator to delay implementing the new rule. Despite the complaint, all but one of them voted to spend the money the rule is expected to generate.

In response, 32 Democratic lawmakers signed a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown urging the governor to stay the course and bring fuel producers under the emissions regime on schedule. Environmentalists also decried Perea's bill.

"A fundamental redesign of AB 32 that allows oil companies to play by different rules than other industries would not only unacceptably delay action to reduce climate pollution, but could also disadvantage those industries that have already made investments to comply with the law," reads the letter, which bears the signature of both senators and Assembly members.

Perea said he still supports AB 32's overarching goal of reducing emissions but does not believe consumers have been adequately prepared.

"What we're really trying to do on this is create a public discussion, because I'm not sure the public is aware of cap and trade and what it's going to do to their pocketbooks," Perea said.

Editor's note: This post was updated July 3 at 3:40 p.m. to include the letter responding to Perea's bill.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, speaks with reporters after a committee hearing at the Capitol on Nov. 6, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 23, 2014
Assembly Democrats fear gas price increase, urge change in environmental policy

California_Greenhouse_Gases.jpgBusiness-friendly Democrats in the state Assembly are urging the Brown administration to back off implementation of a greenhouse gas reduction measure that is expected to result in higher gas prices starting next year.

In a letter to Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, 16 Assembly Democrats last week urged delaying or changing a planned expansion of the state's cap-and-trade program to transportation fuels. As it stands, California's landmark greenhouse gas reduction law, Assembly Bill 32, will require that oil companies buy carbon credits for fuel they swell starting next year.

"We are concerned about the impact of the AB 32 cap-and-trade program on our constituents," the lawmakers wrote. "Fuel prices for consumers are going to be driven up once fuel is covered under cap-and-trade at the start of next year, weakening the economy just as California is recovering from the last recession, and hurting the most vulnerable members of our communities who must commute to work and drive long distances for necessary services like medical care."

Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, one of the lawmakers who wrote the letter, said an increase in gas prices of 15 cents per gallon or more could be expected if the rule goes into effect.

The letter comes amid heightened calls by Republican politicians and oil interests to delay expanding the cap-and-trade program to transportation fuels. Environmentalists have said it is appropriate to price gas high enough to change consumer transportation habits.

PHOTO: A tanker truck passes the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond on March 9, 2010. The Associated Press/Paul Sakuma

May 18, 2014
Jerry Brown: 'Humanity is on a collision course with nature'

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, blaming climate change for the increasing prevalence of wildfires in California, said Sunday that "humanity is on a collision course with nature."

"The state's climate appears to be changing," Brown said in an interview on ABC's "This Week." "The scientists tell us that definitely. So we've got to gear up here. And after all, in California for 10,000 years our population was about 300,000. Now it's 38 million. We have more structures, more activity, more sparks, more combustible activity and we've got to gear up for it and as the climate changes, this is going to be a radically different future than was our historic past."

Brown's remarks came as firefighters battle fires in San Diego County, where Brown declared a state of emergency last week. The Democratic governor has made climate change a focus of his administration, and he has used the state's dramatic blazes to illustrate concerns about the environment.

According to state fire officials, 1,108 wildfires burned more than 2,500 acres in California from Jan. 1 through late April, an increase over the 697 fires and 1,793 acres burned in the same period last year.

"As we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we're seeing," Brown said. "So we've got to gear up. We're going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we're just going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 6, 2014
Increasing density may not work in cutting greenhouse gases

populationdensity.jpgIncreasing the population density of California's urban areas is a key component of the state's plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 - but it may not be the most effective strategy, new research at the University of California, Berkeley, indicates.

Although suburbs, with their relatively low densities and dependence on autos for travel, are bigger generators of carbon dioxide than urban cores, the researchers said, "a 10-fold increase in population density in central cities yields only a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions."

"That would require a really extraordinary transformation for very little benefit, and high carbon suburbanization would result as a side effect," Christopher Jones, a doctoral student in the UC-Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group and co-author of the report, said in a statement accompanying the study's release Monday.

Trying to increase population densities in suburbs, which several state strategies propose, "appears to be an even worse strategy," Jones said, because it would encourage the development of new, high energy use suburbs further away.

What Jones and his co-researcher, Dr. Daniel Kammen, suggest is that one-size-fits all strategies to reduce greenhouse gases give way to locally designed plans based on local circumstances.

"Cities are not islands," Kammen said. "They exist in a complex landscape that we need to understand better both theoretically and empirically."

Toward that end, the study includes an innovative, interactive Internet tool that allows users to calculate not only the emissions of their own households, but of their communities and breaks down the individual components of those emissions.

The average American household is responsible for 48.5 tons of CO2 each year, and the interactive tool allows users to measure themselves and their communities against that number.

PHOTO: In this photo taken Nov. 2, 2008, apartment buildings crowd the skyline in Chongqing, China. Associated Press/Elizabeth Dalziel



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Capitol Alert Staff


Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. jmiller@sacbee.com. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. akoseff@sacbee.com. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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