California climate activists are bleeding from several stabs in the back this summer from our erstwhile friends in the neoliberal environmentalist establishment and the Democratic Party. Governor Jerry Brown, desperate to preserve California’s failing Cap & Trade program, brokered a deal (AB 398) so shamefully full of pork for polluters that it has made even some veteran sausage-makers blush.
How could Governor Moonbeam do this to us?
For starters, realize that every Sacramento politician understands the vast majority of Californians want them to fight climate change. According to a recent Public Policy Institute of California survey, overwhelming majorities of California adults (72%) and likely voters (66%) favor the new state law mandating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
So as a simple matter of survival, every politician in California has learned to talk the climate talk. They must, even though most still depend on big business lobbyists for reelection funds — especially ever-ready deep-pocketed donors like Chevron and Valero.
Then consider that most of the money collected from the state’s largest polluters through Cap & Trade doesn’t necessarily go directly to fighting climate change. For example, the table below shows that the largest beneficiary to date has been Governor Brown’s High Speed Rail scheme, an economic development infrastructure project with dubious greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation impacts at best.
Table: CA Air Resources Board Climate Investments 2017 Annual Report
Next understand that big oil, specifically the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), is intent on minimizing the costs to their members of complying with SB32, California’s landmark goal-setting legislation. Passed last year, SB32 committed the state to GHG reductions of roughly 5% per year through 2030.
Although earlier this year WSPA lost their court case to get Cap & Trade thrown out completely, they became worried that local air pollution regulators (such as our own Bay Area Air Quality Management District) would pass regulations tougher than the State’s relatively market-friendly Cap & Trade program. That is why WSPA drafted a significant part of the new bill that Brown and local Democrats championed, including the part that repeals the authority of local regulators to limit GHG emissions at refineries.
Cap-and-trade systems typically use several mechanisms to lighten their burdens on businesses: Free credit giveaways, Maximum price ceilings, and Emissions offsets (for example, allowing fossil-fuel pollution to continue in Richmond, in exchange for planting trees in Brazil). All three of these questionable policies feature prominently in the legislation passed last month.
For more on the green civil war that’s brewing in Sacramento, check out these stories below.
LA Times: Here’s why progressives aren’t thrilled with Gov. Brown’s cap-and-trade plan
Sacramento Bee: Would Jerry Brown’s climate change law go too easy on Big Oil?
KQED: Here’s What’s in the Deal to Extend California’s Cap-and-Trade System
Selected Groups In Favor of AB398:
- California League of Conservation Voters
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Darius Anderson’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Local legislators Bill Dodd, Cecillia Aguiar-Curry, Mark Levine, and Mike McGuire all voted “Yes” in favor of Governor Brown’s dirty deal.
Selected Groups Opposed to AB398:
- 350 Bay Area
- California Environmental Justice Alliance
- Climate Hawks Vote!
- Consumer Watchdog
- Food & Water Watch
- Sierra Club
– Tom Conlon, Editor Transition Sonoma Valley