Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

San Francisco judge protects offset protocols in California's cap-and-trade market

Power plant operators can purchase offsets in California in order to minimize their climate impact. A court ruling has upheld offset rules.
Power plant operators can purchase offsets in California in order to minimize their climate impact. A court ruling has upheld offset rules. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

Under the state’s plan to combat climate change, polluters must permanently cut carbon emissions. That’ll be expensive, so regulators designed ways to buffer the financial pressure. Power plant owners may purchase offsets - a kind of credit for carbon reductions that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

A San Francisco judge has upheld key provisions creating offsets in California's scheme to cap and create a market for greenhouse gases. 

Offset projects include saving or expanding forests, or trapping methane gas from livestock. The groups Citizens’ Climate Lobby and Our Children’s Earth challenged California’s offset system, saying its rules wouldn’t ensure that programs qualified as offsets would be “additional” benefits, on top of what’s required.

But a judge has sided with California regulators. A designer of the state’s offset program says the Superior Court ruling allows California’s cap-and-trade market, already underway, to work as designed. "The judge clearly states that the standardized, performance-based offset protocols that we pioneered ensure environmental integrity and therefore are consistent with AB32," said Gary Gero with the Climate Action Reserve, a respondent in the case and an architect of offset protocols. "We’re tremendously gratified by the affirmation and are glad we can focus now on moving forward."

Citizens Climate Lobby et al vs. California Air Resources Board 

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