State Takes the Wraps off Climate Blueprint

Listen to story

Download this story 1.0MB

California's Air Resources Board rolled out a landmark plan Thursday to cut a third of the state's greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade or so. KPCC's Julie Small reports that the blueprint to fight global warming is just that, a blueprint with lots of details yet to be sketched in.

Julie Small: Here's a quick once-over on California's plan to combat global warming: the state aims to cut a third of its greenhouse gas emissions with regulations and with a mandatory emissions cap on the state's main polluters.

The plan will touch every industry in the state, and every consumer, too. You'd think that might rankle somebody. But not a single person who testified at the Air Resources Board meeting opposed the plan. At least, not now.

Bob Epstein: What's great about it is it says, independent of the price of energy, that there's going to be a gradual ratcheting down of carbon. And that says if you have ways of reducing carbon, you're guaranteed a market in California. Bob Epstein, I'm a cofounder of Environmental Entrepreneurs.

Derek Walker: Californians really want to have access to cleaner fuels, cleaner cars, cleaner appliances, and this plan is very responsive to public sentiment. Derek Walker, director of the California Climate Initiative for Environmental Defense Fund.

Small: But if you get down into the weeds, there are some worries about how the plan will work in the real world. Take electricity, for example. Generating power in California produces about a quarter of the state's greenhouse gas emissions.

One regulation in the plan would require electric utilities to generate a third of their power from renewable sources, like wind, solar, or small hydroelectric dams. That's fine, but Bruce McLaughlin with the California Municipal Utilities Association wonders how the plan will treat utilities that supply electricity from Hoover Dam. Big dams, a clean source of power, don't count under the Air Resources Board plan.

Bruce McLaughlin: It makes no sense to us to replace to replace this zero emission resource, truly zero emission, with, and have, force them to go out get a expensive resource that's maybe 10 times more expensive.

Small: If a utility already meets the plan's renewable energy target, it would still have to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. And it would have to pay the state for every ton of greenhouse gas it emits, regardless of how much it's already cut back over the years. McLaughlin says the Air Board's plan treats innovators like the L.A. Department of Water and Power the same as the dirtiest utilities in the state.

McLaughlin: It's a draft, it's preliminary, we recognize that, but it says no matter what you are now, and no matter what your emissions are, even if they're below what you were doing in 1990, you still have to buy allowances for your emissions, whatever they are. And that seems a little bit punitive at face value right now.

Small: That's a pesky detail the state Air Resources Board will have to work out over the next few months. There are a lot more, too, not just for electric utilities, but for all the major industrial polluters in California. The Board plans to hold hearing after hearing over the next few months to work out all those details before it adopts a final plan this fall.