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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