orders from a judge, California air quality regulators released a study
Monday of potential greenhouse-gas-cutting measures, including
alternatives to a controversial cap-and-trade system due to begin
operations in the state next year.
But the analysis, from the California Air Resources Board, still
gives cap and trade higher marks than any of the alternatives, including
a carbon tax. As a result, the study is unlikely to settle the
lingering debate over the state's cap-and-trade system, which will set a
limit on greenhouse gas emissions and create a market for trading the
right to produce those gases.
The air board has been developing a cap-and-trade system as a way to
implement California's global warming law, which calls for cutting the
state's emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.
Looking at alternatives
But environmentalists sued the board, arguing that the regulators
didn't fully analyze alternatives that might be more effective. In
March, a Superior Court judge agreed, ordering the regulators to stop
working on cap and trade until they performed a more thorough
examination of the options.
Monday's study did not satisfy some of the environmentalists suing
the board. The study examines the same alternatives to cap and trade
that the board already considered and rejected. Caroline Farrell,
executive director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment,
said her group wanted fresh options.
"The alternatives themselves weren't adequate, and so the whole
thrust of the court's order, as well as our case, was that they should
go look at some true alternatives to cap and trade," she said. "It
wasn't just that they should go back and fill in some detail."
Public comment time
The air board is scheduled to reconsider its approval of cap and
trade on Aug. 24, after giving the public time to make comments on the
new report. But the study appears to favor the decision the board
It finds, for example, that placing a tax on emissions of carbon
dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, would be politically unlikely
because it would require a two-thirds vote of the California
Legislature. A carbon "fee" could be created by a simple majority in the
Legislature but would face restrictions on how the money could be used.
Setting hard limits on industry's greenhouse gas emissions through
regulations, rather than a cap-and-trade system, would be difficult and
could lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions outside the state, in a
phenomenon known as "leakage." For example, owners of cement plants
might choose to close their California plants and open new ones
elsewhere, providing no real benefit to the environment.
This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle