California Cap and Trade Gets Zapped

A San Francisco judge ruled in March that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) must stop implementations of regulations under the state’s 2006 climate change legislation (AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) because the state didn’t adequately consider alternatives to a cap-and-trade plan for carbon emissions. In a ruling announced on March 21st, San Francisco Superior Court Judge, Ernest Goldsmith, rule that CARB must follow its own regulatory process and consider other plans to meet the state’s environmental law when implementing it cap-and-trade program.

Under cap and trade, emissions credits or allowances can be purchased by businesses that need credits, or sold by organizations based on the government’s requirement that those businesses’ emissions be offset. CARB’s regulation sets a statewide limit on emissions from sources responsible for the bulk of California’s greenhouse gas emissions and also sets a price that should drive long-term investment in cleaner fuels and more efficient use of energy. The first phase of the program, scheduled to start in 2012, includes all major industrial sources including utilities. CARB’s version of cap and trade is considered by many as a working template for other states that may choose to adopt California’s regulation rather than a federal cap-and-trade program.

According to Goldsmith, CARB began its scoping plan during a January 2009 public workshop before it could finish the environmental review process and respond to public comments. The court’s decision also concluded that CARB “failed to adequately describe and analyze alternatives for informed decision-making and public review.”

The case was filed by the Association of Irritated Residents, along with several other groups including California Communities Against Toxics, and the non-profit organization, Communities for a Better Environment. These organizations are concerned that the CARB cap-and-trade program would increase air pollution in low-income communities near power plants and oil refineries.

CARB has said it will appeal the ruling.

Article by Julie Mitchell, appearing courtesy Celsias.

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