Court Orders Majority of California's Climate Law to Proceed; Cap and Trade to Get Fresh Look

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Last week, Judge Ernest Goldsmith of the San Francisco Superior Court ruled to keep the bulk of California’s climate law, AB 32, moving ahead without delay, and narrowed the scope of an ongoing dispute to one piece of the puzzle – California’s cap and trade program.

The decision cleared up an outstanding question in a lawsuit challenging the California Air Resources Board’s approval of the AB 32 Scoping Plan, California’s groundbreaking blueprint to cut global warming pollution statewide. 

Previously, Judge Goldsmith ruled that ARB had complied with all of the statutory requirements of AB 32 in adopting the Scoping Plan, but had failed to meet certain procedural requirements along the way.  Chief among them, Judge Goldsmith found that ARB had failed to adequately consider alternatives to including a cap and trade program among the larger mix of clean energy policies in the Scoping Plan.

But what remained uncertain was the extent to which the judge’s order directing ARB to remedy the procedural violations would put other Scoping Plan measures on hold for the time being, such as California’s low carbon fuel standard.

That answer came Friday, when Judge Goldsmith heeded the recommendations of both parties to limit the scope of the litigation moving forward to the cap and trade component of the Scoping Plan.  That will enable the rest of California’s clean energy programs – accounting for roughly 85% of the expected AB 32 emission reductions – to continue unaffected.

These groundbreaking policies are driving down pollution, improving public health, creating new economic and job opportunities, and positioning California as a global leader in the push for clean energy solutions.

The focus now turns to how ARB will get the remaining piece of the reductions pie.  ARB is currently in the process of completing a rigorous study to take a fresh look at alternatives to achieve the required reductions.

ARB is expected to have the new analysis completed by early summer, at which time interested stakeholders will have an opportunity to weigh in.  We look forward to a thorough and robust discussion of cap and trade and its alternatives, as ARB seeks to meet AB 32’s greenhouse gas emissions limits in a manner that will maximize economic and environmental benefits for California.