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Last-Minute Bills Seek to Extend Cap-and-Trade and Improve Air Quality

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July 17, 2017

Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) rushed a pair of bills into publication last Monday night in a last-ditch effort to extend California’s cap-and-trade program.

AB 398, which renews and updates the cap-and-trade program, and AB 617, a companion bill targeting air quality improvements in California’s dirtiest neighborhoods, were posted just in time for legislators to vote on them before breaking for their summer recess on July 21.

Brown’s push to extend the cap-and-trade program has been the most fiercely fought battle of this legislative session. The two bills were introduced after weeks of negotiations between the governor’s office, legislators, environmentalists, oil industry representatives, and members of the environmental justice community. The Coalition is supporting both bills.

AB 398 makes low-carbon transportation a priority

AB 398 extends the program until 2030 while modifying how the cap-and-trade marketplace functions. It requires CARB to set a ceiling on the price of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions allowances, decreases the number of offsets allowed, and mandates that half of all offset projects take place in California. It also decreases free carbon allowances more than 40 percent by 2030. Brown’s office said that AB 398 will ensure that the state can meet its goal of cutting GHG emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

AB 398 does not specify how to distribute revenue from cap-and-trade auctions will be distributed, but it does make projects that reduce air pollutants from refineries, cars, and trucks a priority; Brown’s office expects the bill to decrease diesel emissions in highly impacted communities, for example.

“AB 398 includes low- and zero-carbon transportation alternatives in a list of priorities for appropriating cap-and-trade funds. This not only makes the cleaner technologies affordable, but also helps fleets accelerate the retirement of older, high-polluting trucks,” said Coalition President Thomas Lawson. “It will also help grow the alternative fuel market and stimulate investments in the next generation of zero- and near-zero-emission truck technologies.”

AB 617 tackles local pollution

AB 617 is designed to clean up the air in highly polluted areas by establishing a new monitoring system and imposing stricter penalties on polluters. It requires industrial companies, such as oil refineries, to install cleaner equipment within the next six years, either retrofitting or replacing outdated machines.

The legislative package also includes provisions intended to sway Republicans to vote for it, according to the Los Angeles Times, such as extending a tax credit for manufacturers and repealing a fire prevention fee.

Photo ©Westport Innovations, used by permission

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