Plans to cap California's greenhouse gases go back to the drawing board

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Traffic stacks up on the west- and east-bound lanes of the 210 Foothill Freeway near Los Angeles as Thanksgiving holiday travelers hit the freeways on November 24, 2010 in Duarte, California.

California air officials must go back to the drawing board to analyze plans for cutting greenhouse gases through an emissions market. A superior court judge has sided with groups who sued over cap-and-trade on behalf of poor, Latino and Black residents affected by polluting industries.

The landmark law AB 32 requires dramatic cuts in California's carbon emissions. It doesn't specify how to do that.

Bill Gallegos is the executive director of Communties for a Better Environment – one of the groups that sued to stop California's current plans for so-called cap-and-trade.

He says allowing polluters to cut carbon dioxide or CO2 in locations far from where they spew it places an unfair burden on vulnerable and poor people. "We’d like to see a set of controls that not only captures CO2 emissions but these co-pollutants as well. And that would really have a double benefit for our communities because they already have high rates of asthma and cancer and respiratory problems."

The ruling directs the California Air Resources Board to re-evaluate carbon trading and consider other ways to cut emissions. The Natural Resources Defense Council's David Pettit points out the final ruling leaves other major parts of AB 32 alone. "It's the narrowest possible result given what his initial decision was."

Pettit says he expects state air officials are already reconsidering their options for limiting California's contributions to global warming. California law requires the state to begin meeting new carbon-cutting targets by next January.

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