California's Climate Bill Remains on Track

Last Friday, the San Francisco County Superior Court issued its decision in a lawsuit challenging the California Air Resources Board’s adoption of the AB 32 Scoping Plan (the Scoping Plan is the state’s comprehensive blueprint for achieving AB 32’s goal of reducing global warming pollution statewide).  Environmental justice groups contended that CARB did not comply with the mandatory statutory requirements of AB 32 and the procedural requirements set out in the California Environmental Quality Act.

The court dismissed plaintiffs’ substantive arguments under AB 32 but found that CARB had run afoul of CEQA by not examining a sufficient range of alternatives before moving forward with the measures outlined in the Scoping Plan. 

One of those measures is California’s cap-and-trade program (which accounts for less than 20 percent of the plan’s overall emission reductions).  The court agreed with plaintiffs that CARB erred by including a cap-and-trade component before adequately considering other options (like a carbon tax) and enjoined further implementation of measures in the Scoping Plan until CARB comes into compliance with its obligations under CEQA.

Even with the cap-and-trade program facing a potential roadblock, however, the court’s order makes clear that CARB can move forward with implementing the full package of Scoping Plan policies by correcting the alternatives analysis that the court found lacking.   CARB can and should complete this analysis and we will work with staff to ensure they have remedied any deficiencies in time for the program to launch as planned in January 2012. Once CARB satisfies its CEQA obligations, the ongoing implementation of AB 32 that Californians resoundingly voted for back in November can proceed within the law. 

California’s policymakers must be mindful of the disproportionate impacts of air pollution borne by communities located near fossil-fuel fired power plants and refineries.  By reducing the state’s dependence on burning fossil fuels across all sectors of our economy, AB 32 will provide substantial public health co-benefits in local communities.  While disagreement may arise, the Scoping Plan provides a critical foundation on which California can continue to build a clean energy economy and we encourage all parties to work together to ensure we maintain our momentum.