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Cap-and-trade getting to nuts and bolts, but Sacramento still seeing climate skeptics, AB 32 opponents

California Air Resources Board chief Mary Nichols, whose agency oversees state climate policy efforts under AB 32, outside a conference in Hollywood in 2011.
California Air Resources Board chief Mary Nichols, whose agency oversees state climate policy efforts under AB 32, outside a conference in Hollywood in 2011.
Molly Peterson/KPCC

A discussion about how state lawmakers should dole out cap-and-trade auction proceeds under AB 32, the state's landmark greenhouse gas reduction law, is proceeding in Sacramento. What's interesting is that it's doing so with considerable and continuing opposition to the premise of capping or, for that matter, trading greenhouse gas emissions in the first place.

The bill is AB 1532. By its language at the moment, it provides that proceeds of an auction "shall be used to facilitate the achievement of feasible and cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in this state" that maximize economic, enviro, and public health benefits; boost jobs; complement other work to improve air quality; invest in disadvantaged communities; and/or provide opportunities for local agencies, schools, or other community institutions (this actually includes businesses).

Not surprisingly, some of the groups lobbying against the bill, and the lawmakers who oppose it, also oppose greenhouse gas reduction efforts, and even dispute the existence of man-made global warming.

The California Chamber of Commerce put AB 1532 on its annual "job killers" list. The Chamber said that the bill and two others it co-listed alongside it will increase energy costs, including fuel prices, "by allocating funds from an illegal tax to various programs that are not necessary to cost-effectively implement the market-based trading mechanism under AB 32." Earning a spot on the "job killers" list also effectively invites the statewide coalition of smaller chambers of commerce to show up at hearings as well. 

Other opponents are familiar as well: the California Grocers Association, California Manufacturers & Technology Association, California Metals Coalition, California Taxpayers Association, Chemical Industry Council of California, and the Western State Petroleum Association. 

The California Air Resources Board is seeing some of the same kinds of broad opposition to even the existence of the cap-and-trade scheme.

Last week, I got an email from a woman named Heather Gass

Gass expressed her outrage at the fact that CARB "abruptly" shut down a public consultation meeting on cap-and-trade while some people were still hoping to speak. She sent along this clip of the meeting.

Gass was frustrated she drove an hour and a half to a meeting at which she didn't get to speak but public officials and stakeholders did.

"I would have said something she didn’t like for sure," she wrote in an email to me, "like, Cap n’ trade is going to kill jobs and our economy. And if they want to know how to spend any money they get they should pay down our debt!  I had much more to say, but that is the gist." Gass was also mad that Assemblywoman Shannon Grove didn't get her say. (I emailed and called the assemblywoman's office for comment.)

But this week in the Assembly, it went down differently. It was Speaker John Perez's bill, and he seems to have had no patience for broad based attacks on climate science and the validity of AB 32. According to the Sacramento Bee, he told opponents, "If you would like to bury your head in the sand and say, 'I do not want to be involved in actually governing the state of California in what we do in these areas,' you should vote no."