California’s bipartisan cap-and-trade law victory

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Gov. Jerry Brown succeeded in extending the law that reduced state’s carbon footprint for another decade. On the Monday evening California’s cap-and-trade program strengthened governor’s ambitions to make California leader in the the fight against climate change.

In this case, both parties were opposed to Washington’s position and wanted to push the legislation. “We didn’t come here to Sacramento to just be Republicans and to hate on Democrats,” Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes said. “We came here to Sacramento to make people’s lives better.”

The three-bill package now heads to Brown’s desk. Brown’s idea was to ffer the state’s cap-and-trade program as a model that can be reproduced in other states and even nations to reduce carbon emissions and combat rising temperatures. “We’re only 1 percent of the problem, but we’re a lot more a part of the solution,” Brown said. “It’s not just what we do — it’s what other people can follow.”

Brown said this initiative is essential for the survival of civilization, and added that his highest priority was to extend the program before the end of his fourth term. This legislation was opposed by some environmentalists who said it is not enough for progressive California, specially those who work to clean up the notoriously smoggy air in parts of Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and the agricultural Central Valley. Conservatives also fought it, pointing out it will raise costs in an already expensive state.

However Brown and Democratic leaders were able to gather two thirds to support them in both chambers, and program is now extended until 2030. One Republican in the Senate and seven in the Assembly joined a majority of Democrats in supporting the bill. This will put a limit on carbon carbon emissions and requires polluters to obtain permits to release greenhouse gases. Allowances will be given away but other permits will be auctioned, generating billions of dollars in revenue for the state.

Two companion bills were successfully negotiated that helped secure the two-thirds majority necessary to extend cap and trade. One will improve local air quality and helped bring some Democrats on board with the cap-and-trade deal, and other will give the Republican party more of a say in how to spend money collected through cap and trade in the future.

“I didn’t know where it was going a few days ago,” Brown said, acknowledging the difficulty in winning support.

Republicans warned that this bill will hit the Californians at the gas pumps. The nonpartisan legislative analyst said last year that the existing cap-and-trade program accounted for an 11-cent-per-gallon increase in gasoline prices.

“We could shut down the entire state of California and it would have absolutely no effect on the global climate,” said Sen. Andy Vidak, a Republican from Hanford in the agricultural Central Valley who voted against the extension. “But what is measurable is the effect this tax will have on the poorest of the poor in my district and across California.”

On the other side, local environmental justice advocates think cap and trade will allow polluters to pollute farther and also opposed to concessions Brown made to the oil industry and other polluters in a bid to win support from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

State law requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030, and that is among the most aggressive mandates for carbon reduction in the world. Without this law state regulators would be forced to enact restrictive mandates on polluters that would be burdensome for businesses and significantly more expensive for consumers, Brown said.