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California governor Jerry Brown wins cap-and-trade vote and increases oil industry hand-outs

On 17 July 2017, California’s Assembly and Senate voted to extend the state’s cap-and-trade legislation until 2030. AB 398, written with the help of the oil industry, passed with two-thirds majorities in both chambers. Environmental justice groups opposed the bill, because it gives away far to much to the big oil and gas companies, and does too little to address the pollution that affects vulnerable communities in California.

Major polluters in California are concentrated in communities of colour and low-income communities. AB 398 prevents local air districts from passing rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from polluting operations such as oil and gas refineries.

Nevertheless, California’s governor, Jerry Brown, said in a statement,

“Tonight, California stood tall and once again, boldly confronted the existential threat of our time. Republicans and Democrats set aside their differences, came together and took courageous action. That’s what good government looks like.”

Amy Vanderwarker, Co-Director of California Environmental Justice Alliance, questions whether the bill has anything to do with “good government”. In a statement responding to the vote, she said,

“Rather than showing a bold, innovative vision for California climate policy, Governor Brown and our legislative leadership provided industry concessions that undermine the tools our state has to fight climate change. AB 398 extends the cap and trade program, but actually increases industry hand-outs. These loopholes hinder our ability to achieve on-the-ground greenhouse gas emission reductions, while unnecessarily tying the hands of local and statewide regulatory authorities. California’s most vulnerable communities will bear the burden of these failures: low-income communities and communities of color will continue to be the hardest hit by harmful pollutants and the unforgiving environmental impacts of climate change.”

As if to illustrate the stitch up behind closed doors that this legislation represents, Brown wrote an op-ed piece the day before the vote, together with Allan Zaremberg, CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, and Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. The words “cost-effective” appear three times in the short piece. The words “oil”, “fossil fuels”, “environmental justice” are nowhere to be seen.

And California’s Senate leader Kevin de León said,

“Californians overwhelmingly support our efforts to tackle climate change; they know it’s an urgent threat and they want us to continue to lead. That’s exactly what we’re doing by extending cap and trade.

“We’ve set the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets in the nation, and cap and trade is our insurance policy to help us reach those goals efficiently and affordably.”

Yes, that’s the same Kevin de León who only a few weeks ago put forward SB 775, a bill that would have allowed no offsets, no carbon credits carried forward beyond 2020, no free pollution permits, and a per capita dividend. Back then, he argued that his job was “not for those who are speculating on the market right now, who are trying to profit and buy low and sell high”. It seems he’s changed his mind.

Danny Cullenward is a researcher with Near Zero, a California climate consulting firm. He told Inside Climate News what’s wrong with AB 398:

“There are far too many allowances, by design, in the system, and the caps are set very high. There’s no question it’s an industry-backed bill. You see a lot of provisions that make the deal sweet to the industry, especially oil.”

Friends of the Earth US opposed the extension of California’s cap-and-trade scheme, along with more than 50 environmental justice groups. Following the vote in Sacramento, FoE US put out the following statement:

California cap-and-trade bill is a giveaway to polluters

Friends of the Earth US, 17 July 2017

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California legislature voted to pass AB 398, a controversial cap-and-trade bill that would extend California’s carbon trading program through 2030.

The bill was roundly rejected by the environmental justice community, and includes several giveaways to polluters, including: tens of billions of dollars’ worth of free emission allowances, a particular boon to the oil and gas industry; and allowing polluters to use more carbon offsets to meet their compliance obligations, rather than actually reducing carbon emissions. Notably, it keeps the door open to international forest carbon credits, which are scientifically dubious and associated with a host of indigenous rights impacts.

Moreover, the bill curbs the ability of regional pollution authorities from regulating carbon dioxide, a blow to the hard-won efforts of fenceline communities to establish pollution caps for refineries, which emit both carbon dioxide and co-pollutants harmful to human health.

Michelle Chan, Friends of the Earth’s Vice President of Programs, issued the following statement in response:

    The California legislature has passed a climate deal for billionaires that targets the most vulnerable while giving handouts to Big Oil.

    They have ensured that Big Oil can continue to poison our communities and use the global atmosphere as a dumping ground. Their plan would leave the most vulnerable people, both in California and overseas, at risk to the impacts of climate change and the policy itself.

    The bill’s many giveaways to Big Oil exposes the false climate leadership of a California political elite that is beholden to the rich and powerful. With this vote, Californian elected officials have covered themselves in an oily sheen while doing little to address California’s emissions.



Full disclosure: This post is part of a series of posts and interviews about California’s cap-and-trade scheme, with funding from Friends of the Earth US. Click here for all of REDD-Monitor’s funding sources.

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