Greenhouse Gas Bill Inches Forward

by Nick Welsh

A state bill co-sponsored by Santa Barbara Assemblymember Pedro Nava that would cap the amount of greenhouse gases that California businesses can produce — effective in 2012 — easily passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee Monday afternoon, despite a major adversarial campaign launched by a coalition of state business interests led by the Chamber of Commerce. The bill — co-sponsored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez — would require businesses to start monitoring their greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 and then begin reducing them two years later. Currently, state law does not cover such emissions, and the auto industry has vigorously rebuffed recent efforts to expand California’s ability to enforce clean-air standards, arguing that the state is preempted by the federal government in such matters. Speaking for a coalition of auto makers, oil companies, and major farming interests, the Chamber of Commerce contends such a bill will drive employers from the state, thus killing jobs by the thousands.

Supporters cite a recent study published by UC Berkeley indicating that compliance could produce as many as 20,000 new jobs and add $60 billion to California’s gross product during 12 years. While Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared global warming a pressing concern and issued emission reduction targets of his own, it remains uncertain whether he will sign the Núñez bill. In a related move, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would agree to hear a lawsuit filed by California — and 12 other states — against the federal government, alleging failure to expand the scope of the federal Clean Air Act to address the challenges of global warming. Specifically, the states’ lawsuit contends that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to respond to the challenge of global warming by capping emissions from new cars, trucks, and power plants. The case is scheduled to be heard this fall, and all sides agree the implications of its outcome will be monumental. Lawyers for the Bush administration have insisted that global warming is not sufficiently understood to justify the imposition of new air-quality control regulations. Attorneys for California and the 12 states have countered that the Bush White House has wasted precious time addressing a worldwide problem that the EPA is legally required to address.

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