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Environment & Science

Gov. Brown has 2 bills to help California’s air quality




LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 17:  The downtown skyline is enveloped in smog shortly before sunset on November 17, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Earlier this month, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, southern California?s anti-smog agency, approved a $36 million program to reduce pollution from trucks operating at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. An estimated 12,000 diesel trucks travel to and from the ports each day, carrying freight through southern California metropolitan areas where their emissions are believed to increased risks of asthma and other illnesses among local residents and particularly children.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 17: The downtown skyline is enveloped in smog shortly before sunset on November 17, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Earlier this month, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, southern California?s anti-smog agency, approved a $36 million program to reduce pollution from trucks operating at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. An estimated 12,000 diesel trucks travel to and from the ports each day, carrying freight through southern California metropolitan areas where their emissions are believed to increased risks of asthma and other illnesses among local residents and particularly children. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images

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California's cap-and-trade program — a key element in the state's efforts to reduce toxic pollutants — is up for renewal.

Up until Monday evening, the future of the program looked uncertain. But, after months of discussion, Governor Jerry Brown revealed legislation Monday that extends the program to the year 2030.

For analysis, Take Two spoke to Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA.

Need a review session on how cap-and-trade came to be? Click the link above located below the play button.

It's worth pointing out that there's not just one bill this time. Brown has unveiled two. Why is that? 

It's really a sign of how much the conversation has shifted since 2006 when we passed AB32.

Yes, we still are committed to climate leadership in California, but we've also collectively come to the realization that we need to make sure that we're not leaving disadvantaged Californians behind — that we shouldn't tackle climate change pollution without addressing long-standing, very harmful traditional air pollution with serious public health consequences that have plagued many California communities for decades.

We have two bills because we're doing this in lockstep. One of the bills tackles climate cap-and-trade extension, and the other tackles these more longstanding, traditional air quality concerns. 

Let's look at Assembly Bill 398. What's in that one?

This is the cap-and trade bill.

Essentially, it extends the ability for California to continue to use cap-and-trade as one tool in the regulatory toolbox to try and reach our state climate goals, which are to reduce our state climate pollution pretty significantly by the year 2030.

This is important because cap-and-trade is a really flexible, affordable regulatory approach and California would like to continue to be able to use it through 2030 — but the legal footing for that approach is uncertain.

This bill put that cap and trade program on very firm legal footing through 2030. To do so, it requires a two-thirds vote, so it also includes sweeteners for various constituents to try to get all those votes in the legislature — especially some sweeteners for energy. 

Let's get into Assembly Bill 697. What's that one?

That's the companion bill that increases regulation of those local traditional air pollutants in California communities. We're talking ozone, particulate matter, toxic air contaminants that often come from these big, polluting facilities covered by the cap-and-trade program.

The bill aims at ramping down those pollutants from those facilities. It improves air quality monitoring; it increases penalties for air quality violations and — perhaps most importantly — it requires retrofit technology to be used at some facilities covered by the cap and trade program to tamp down those other, more localized pollutants too. And it really focuses those efforts on disadvantaged communities in California. 

What do you think?

It's a really interesting set of compromises. If the two bills pass, we get our cap and trade extension while improving air quality locally. Everyone doesn't get what they want, but that's the nature of compromise.

There are many giveaways to industry here, and it's hard to know how significant they are. There are many tax extensions; there are lots of free allowances to industry. From my perspective, those giveaways won't affect the environmental integrity of the program. We'll still get our reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and traditional air pollutants.

Overall, I think the compromise does a good job creating the big tent that is required to get a two-thirds vote. 

Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview. 

(Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)