Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Does cap-and-trade serve California’s climate goals?

Gov. Jerry Brown holds up four bills he signed related to climate change on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, in downtown Fresno.
Gov. Jerry Brown holds up four bills he signed related to climate change on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, in downtown Fresno. sflores@fresnobee.com

Basking in the glow of a climate legislation victory last month, Gov. Jerry Brown had a prediction for how how he would bend lawmakers to his will in a looming battle to extend California’s cap-and-trade program.

“They’re going to get commands to do things,” Brown said, “and they’re going to plead for a market system called cap-and-trade so they can respond in a way that’s more beneficial to their bottom line.”

We’ll see if that prediction comes true. But Brown’s comment illuminated a fissure in the debate over how best to reach those greenhouse gas reduction goals California has now extended and deepened.

Cap-and-trade, in which businesses buy permits or offsets for the carbon they put in the air, may be the state’s most high-profile climate program. Despite the challenges to extend the system, it offers political benefits in the form of revenue that lawmakers can bring to their districts for local projects popular with constituents.

But some environmentalists argue that it’s an inefficient system, pointing to its financial struggles and the leeway they say it gives big polluters to keep doing business by passing fees on to consumers or paying for out-of-state mitigation. They argue the program has failed to limit pollution and has actually hurt some poor communities by keeping dirty facilities open, and instead advocate a “command-and-control” approach that focuses not on permits but on mandates to reduce source emissions.

With the Air Resources Board meeting today to discuss extending cap-and-trade beyond 2020, some of those critics will be holding a noon rally outside Cal EPA headquarters to protest that effort. This intra-enviro schism is a dynamic worth watching as the cap-and-trade debate unfolds.

BY THE NUMBERS: $900 million is the amount of cap-and-trade money recently allocated out of the $1.4 billion available as of May. Meanwhile, the last two carbon permit auctions have generated a mere $18 million for California.

BILL WATCH: As Brown continues churning through bills on his desk, here are a couple of labor measures worth watching.

TOO DAMN HIGH: An affordable housing deal didn’t happen this year despite soaring California housing costs that commonly evoke the term “crisis.” Highlighting the scope of the issue, activists are planning to rally around the country today for a “Renters Day of Action.” Organizers are planning demonstrations in 10 different California cities and have criticized legislation barring housing discrimination against people who get rent vouchers dying this year without a floor vote, though Brown signed a different bill seeking to curb evictions.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Worried or curious about the role of money in politics? Then stop by the main Bee newsroom this evening for a conversation between Bill Burton, who worked in the Obama White House, and veteran California Republican Rob Stutzman, overseen by estimable Bee Editorial Board chief Dan Morain. Starting at 6 p.m. at 2100 Q Street. You can get a ticket here.

BONDING: Revenue bonds may not be a subject you think about much, but they’re a politically consequential topic – look no further than the Delta tunnel targeting proposition to subject them to a public vote. Today the Little Hoover Commission will examine how the state oversees revenue bonds, drawing on officials from the State Treasurer’s Office, the California Natural Resources Agency, the Task Force on Bond Accountability and multiple school districts. Starting at 9:30 a.m. in room 437 of the Capitol.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, careening toward middle age as he celebrates his 45th today.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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