AB 32 California Global Warming Solutions Act

California’s cap-and-trade program withstood a battle in court, and now the Legislature is proposing changes to the controversial program.  Senator Bob Wieckowski (Democrat – District 10), Chair of the Environmental Quality Committee, has authored Senate Bill 775 (“SB 775”) which would extend the cap-and-trade program to 2030 with modifications.  The existing cap-and-trade program, established under Assembly Bill 32 (2006) or the California Global Warming Solutions Act (“Act”), expires in 2020.  The Act requires the State Air Resources Board (“ARB”) to approve a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit equivalent to 1990 greenhouse gas emissions level to be achieved by 2020, and to ensure that statewide greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to at least 40% below the 1990 level by 2030, as outlined in Senate Bill 32 (2016).
Continue Reading Senate Bill Proposes Major Market-Based Remodel of Cap-and-Trade Program

As the sands shift on federal climate change policy, California’s cap-and-trade program survives to fight another day.  Yesterday, a California Court of Appeal upheld the program because it does not impose a tax subject to the two-thirds supermajority vote requirement under Proposition 13.  The Court also affirmed the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) authority to auction GHG emissions allowances.  For the ins and outs of the decision and prior coverage of the case, pop on over to Renewable + Law for a great post by my colleagues, Allison Smith and Parissa Florez.

Now, stating the obvious here: a lot is riding on this case.  The cap-and-trade program has generated billions of dollars in fees and the program plays a crucial role in California’s goal to cut GHG emissions.  Those fees don’t get paid with monopoly money, but instead hit the bottom line of companies across many different industries.  Of course, some consider the fees to be a small price to pay to prevent flooding, the sixth mass extinction, and in their view, the end of the world. On a level that hits closer to home for many readers of this blog, the challenge to the cap-and-trade program has added to the uncertainty of how to address GHG emissions for development projects subject to CEQA.  As previously discussed by my colleague, Tom Henry, reliance on the cap-and-trade program appears to be one of the few approaches to a legally defensible CEQA GHG analysis.Continue Reading CARB Wins Again on Cap-and-Trade, But Is It Really in Any Danger of Losing?

Late Tuesday, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released draft amendments to the state’s cap and trade regulation, including revisions to the current program in place through 2020, an extension of the program through 2030, and setting the stage for continued emissions reductions under the program through 2050.  ARB’s proposed amendments come in the middle of a recent milieu of uncertainty:  pending litigation challenging the legality of the existing program, an opinion from Legislative Counsel that ARB lacks authority under AB 32 to continue cap and trade past 2020, unprecedented weak demand at the most recent allowance auction, and legislation to establish a statutory emissions reductions mandate for 2030 still in process this session.  With all of these balls in the air, ARB has doubled down and drafted regulations dropping the program’s emissions cap from 334.2 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2e in 2020 to 200.5 MMT in 2030, with major elements of the cap and trade regulation continuing in effect past 2020 to achieve the emissions reductions.
Continue Reading What You Need to Know about the Proposed Revisions to Cap and Trade

My colleague, Michael Sherman, posted yesterday about two issues decided in the California Supreme Court’s decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Today, I’ll address the part of the decision that involves the evaluation of the Newhall Ranch project’s greenhouse gas emissions.  In short, the Court just made it a lot harder to evaluate greenhouse gas emissions under CEQA for any large land use project.  There is likely a solution for some situations where the emissions primarily involve the consumption of transportation fuel – the AB 32 Cap and Trade Program was recently expanded to cover those fuels.  This potential solution is hinted at by the Court.  I’ll get to that at the bottom of the post.  But first I’ll discuss the decision and why it’s a problem.

For some background, the Newhall Ranch project would consist of over 20,000 residential units in Southern California.  The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this project was certified back in 2010.  The resulting litigation has since been making its way through the courts.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife used an approach to analyze greenhouse gas emissions similar to what other lead agencies have been using recently.  They relied on the AB 32 Scoping Plan to set a threshold of significance.  AB 32 requires statewide greenhouse gas emissions to return to 1990 levels by 2020.  In the Scoping Plan, the California Air Resources Board determined that this would require a 29% reduction in statewide emissions from a business-as-usual approach — an approach with no conservation or regulatory efforts beyond what was in place when the forecast was made.  Lead agencies have used this standard to find that proposed projects that would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 29% over a project with a business-as-usual approach would, therefore, have a less than significant impact for greenhouse gas emissions.
Continue Reading How to Fix Your GHG Analysis After the California Supreme Court’s Newhall Ranch Decision

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied petition for review in Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey. In Rocky Mountain Farmers, the Ninth Circuit addressed the constitutionality of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), focusing specifically on whether the LCFS discriminates against out-of-state businesses and thus violates the dormant Commerce Clause. Read our September

By Ryan R. Waterman, Parissa Ebrahimzadeh

What does California have planned for the year 2020? An ambitious collection of energy related goals. Stoel Rives attorneys Ryan Waterman and Parissa Ebrahimzadeh explore nine California energy policy goals in an article entitled “California’s “Magic” Number: Nine Goals for 2020 and Where We May Go From There,” published

Governor Brown released a summary of his proposed 2014-2015 budget this week, including details on proposed environmental protection and natural resources spending.  The Governor’s budget provides $3.6 billion in funding for the California Environmental Protection Agency, including $3.1 billion in State funds and $54 million from the General Fund.  Proposed funding of CalEPA programs include:

  •  $850 million

This week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey, ruling on the constitutionality of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).  The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s holdings in large part, in particular finding that the LCFS does not on its face violate the