Capitol Alert

California Senate proposes cap-and-trade overhaul: price limits in, free credits out

This March 9, 2010 file photo shows a tanker truck passing the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif. On Weds., Nov. 14, 2012.
This March 9, 2010 file photo shows a tanker truck passing the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, Calif. On Weds., Nov. 14, 2012. AP

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The California Senate is unveiling a proposal today to overhaul the cap-and-trade system.

The state’s marquee climate change program requires polluters to buy permits for the greenhouse gases they emit as an incentive for companies to reduce their carbon footprint. The permits are purchased through a state-run auction or on the private market.

Last year the Legislature strengthened its climate change goals and reduced its emissions target to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The governor has asked the Legislature to extend the cap-and-trade program beyond 2020, which would help meet the goals.

Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, is introducing SB 775 to extend the program and create a so-called price collar that sets a minimum and maximum cost for credits. A recent report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommends that the Legislature set a price ceiling to prevent the price of permits from skyrocketing, which companies would likely pass on to consumers by raising gas prices.

The bill, which lawmakers intend to pass with a two-thirds vote, eliminates controversial free credit allowances and offsets, such as investments in wind farms, forest growth or other ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions that are currently available under the program. The plan also calls on the state to return some of the money it raises through the program back to consumers.

Assembly Democrats are already advancing their own legislation to extend cap-and-trade. Pushed by lawmakers representing disadvantaged communities to focus more on “environmental justice,” the bill now incorporates limitations on other pollutants, in addition to carbon, that contribute to poor air quality and public health problems such as asthma.

Some Assembly Republicans also recently expressed their willingness to come to the negotiating table, though their desire to use the money generated by cap-and-trade auctions to provide tax credits and rebates differs greatly from the law’s original goal of funding programs that offset greenhouse gas emissions.

WORTH REPEATING: “Shouldn’t we just call the mods ‘Vintage Dems’ or Out of Style?” – Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, reflecting on moderate Democrats in the left-leaning Legislature

WE’VE GOT ESPÍRITU, YES WE DO: The Latino Spirit Awards, given annually by the California Latino Legislative Caucus to recognize members of the Latino community who have made significant achievements in areas such as business, science, education and the arts, will take place for the 16th time at 1 p.m. in the Assembly chambers. This year’s ten honorees include Isabel Allende, the best-selling Chilean author who was also inducted into the California Hall of Fame last fall; Fresno State President Joseph Castro; Sylvia Acevedo, interim CEO for the Girl Scouts; Pixar director Adrian Molina; and Jonas Corona, a 13-year-old student who runs a nonprofit that helps the homeless. Former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso will deliver a keynote address.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: The emotional 2017 Caltrans Worker Memorial honored four employees that died last year.

PACKED UP: As the old saying goes, when it rains, it pours. After more than five years of drought, California saw so much precipitation this winter that the statewide snowpack was recently estimated at 192 percent of the historical average for late April, a record this century. The Department of Water Resources will conduct its final manual snow survey of the season, 11 a.m. at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. Expect more exceptional results; state officials are feeling buoyant enough about the availability of water in the coming months that they finally lifted mandatory conservation rules last week.

BIZ BUZZ: May is many things: Mental Health Month. National Golf Month. International Mediterranean Diet Month. And in California, it’s a time to celebrate nearly 4 million small businesses and entrepreneurs in the state. The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development will formally launch “California Small Business Month” with a press conference at 9 a.m. on the south steps of the Capitol. Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly members Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton; Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove; and Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, are all scheduled to speak.

MUST READ: Are dead people taking your parking place?

#RESIST: Immigrant rights groups have planned a national day of protests against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies to mark May Day. The day has traditionally been used by organized labor to celebrate workers’ rights, and many unions still plan to be involved, including the California Teachers Association, which has more than two dozen events scheduled across the state. CTA President Eric Heins and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will kick off the day, 7 a.m. at New Highland Academy in Oakland, calling for all California school districts to be “safe havens” for immigrants and rallying against the Trump administration’s efforts to “privatize” education.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, who turns 46 today, and to Sen. Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, who turns 41.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna