California Assembly Approves Measure to Extend GHG Emissions Reduction Goals

On Tuesday, the California Assembly passed Senate Bill 32 (SB 32), which would strengthen and extend California’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, it would require a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2030, a codification of Governor Brown’s emission reduction goals he set down in a 2015 executive order.

The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 49-30 and has already passed the Senate. However, SB 32 will only become law if its companion bill, Assembly Bill 197 (AB 197), passes and becomes effective by January 1, 2017. AB 197 passed the Assembly already, as well as the Senate, but now the Assembly must approve the Senate’s version. AB 197 would increase legislative oversight of climate change activities at the California Air Resources Board and other relevant agencies, more specifically adding two ex-officio nonvoting members from the Legislature on to CARB and placing a six-year term on CARB members. Opponents argue that AB 197 and similar measures are pro-environmental justice and anti-market-based solutions.

Regardless of the Legislature’s action, the cap and trade program is still facing an uncertain future due to litigation. The California Chamber of Commerce has sued to challenge CARB’s authority to raise revenue through the auction mechanism, arguing that funds from auctions are essentially a tax and any tax must be approved by two-thirds majority of the Legislature. Based on Tuesday’s vote, SB 32 would not meet that threshold.