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Jerry Brown signs major climate bill: ‘This is big, and I hope it sends a message across the country’

Jerry Brown signs climate bill: 'This is big'

Gov. Jerry Brown, on Thursday Sept. 8, 2016 signed major legislation battling climate change.
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Gov. Jerry Brown, on Thursday Sept. 8, 2016 signed major legislation battling climate change.

Gov. Jerry Brown, holding California out as a beacon for the nation on efforts to reduce climate change, signed into law on Wednesday a sweeping expansion of California’s greenhouse gas emission standards, requiring the state to reduce emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

The legislation, Senate Bill 32, expands on a landmark bill passed 10 years ago and will require dramatic reductions in the use of carbon in everything ranging from automobile fuels to home energy.

“This is big, and I hope it sends a message across the country,” Brown said at a signing ceremony in Los Angeles.

In addition to signing SB 32, Brown signed Assembly Bill 197, giving lawmakers more authority over the California Air Resources Board.

“The bills today, they really are far reaching, and they keep California on the move to clean up the environment, to encourage vast innovation and to make sure we have the environmental resilience that ... Californians really want and expect,” Brown said.

SB 32 gives broad authority to the California Air Resources Board to enact regulations limiting emissions. Many Republicans and business interests have said concerns about climate change are overstated and that complying with additional regulations will cost too much.

At the bill-signing ceremony at Vista Hermosa Natural Park in Los Angeles, the state’s largest media market, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, heralded SB 32 as a “doubling down” of California’s climate program.

“We’ve once again raised the bar for the nation and the world to follow,” he said.

In a prepared statement, Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called Thursday “a momentous day for California and the planet.”

Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, said the bills “impose very severe caps” on emissions “without requiring the regulatory agencies to give any consideration to the impacts on our economy, disruptions in everyone’s daily lives or the fact that California’s population will grow almost 50 percent between 1990 and 2030.”

Left unresolved with SB 32’s enactment is the fate of California’s controversial cap-and-trade program, in which polluters pay to offset carbon emissions. The future of the program appears tenuous amid a court challenge, and Brown’s effort to include language authorizing cap and trade beyond 2020 this year fell flat.

But SB 32 could give Brown leverage in negotiations over cap and trade. If business interests are unwilling to support an extension of that program, the administration – acting under the authority of SB 32 – could force more onerous greenhouse gas reduction measures on them, instead.

“If we don’t stop climate change, it’s not going to be 110 (degrees) in Imperial County,” Brown said. “It’s going to be 130, 135, not for a few days or a few weeks, but for months on end. It can become unlivable.”

The fourth-term Democrat took aim at Republicans in Congress.

“Those Republicans in Congress ... God help us if they win again,” he said. “But if they do, may they be converted. May they see the light before it’s too late.”

Gov. Jerry Brown, issuing an ominous appeal on climate change, spoke at a climate change conference in Vatican City on July 21, 2015, saying the world may already have “gone over the edge” on global warming and that humanity must reverse course o

Gov. Jerry Brown has hundreds of bills to sign or veto before Sept. 30. Here's what to keep an eye on.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, on Aug. 3, 2016, describes talks on legislation to extend the state's emission targets beyond 2020.

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders