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Legislative, environmental stakeholders debate pros and cons of new cap and trade proposal

by AirTalk®

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Morning commuters travel by car and train along the 210 freeway between Los Angeles and cities to the east on December 1, 2009 near Pasadena, California. David McNew/Getty Images

California Democrats are taking a shot at extending the state’s cap and trade program, set to expire in 2020, by proposing an overhaul to the current system that would allow the state to charge polluters a fee for carbon emissions and pass the rebates on to consumers.  

The current cap and trade system, which puts a limit on the amount of carbon pollution that large facilities can emit into the atmosphere and charges polluters to obtain permits to emit the gases, currently lets some industries get permits for free and only sets a price floor. It was designed as a way to encourage industries to adopt green technology sooner and consider ways to offset their carbon emissions.

SB 775, introduced by Fremont Democrat Bob Wieckowski and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, would allow the state to charge all industries and set a price floor and ceiling that will go up over time while gradually raising what it costs to emit pollution. It will require two-thirds approval in the Senate and Assembly. Republicans have said they are willing to consider parts of the proposal but want to make sure that the rebates are going to consumers and not lawmakers. Some environmental groups are also pushing back, saying the state’s already complicated system doesn’t need to be remade from scratch.  

What effect will this proposal have on consumers? With Governor Brown’s transportation package being signed into law last week, what are the chances that this bill gets the approval it needs?


Danny Cullenward, lecturer at Stanford, energy economist, lawyer and research associate at Near Zero, environmental research organization that advised the bill’s sponsor

Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside), California Assemblymember representing the 76th Assembly District, which includes Camp Pendleton, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside, and Vista

Erica Morehouse, senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund where she focuses on California climate policy, climate law and cap-and-trade

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