Capitol Alert

California bill to delay cap-and-trade expansion finished for year

Avoiding an election-year legislative debate over how California’s cap-and-trade program could affect gasoline prices, the leader of the state Senate has sidelined a bill that would have delayed a key aspect of California’s landmark emissions law.

Several years have passed since California enacted AB 32, a 2006 law meant to reduce heat-trapping emissions and which requires industries to purchase permits for the carbon they pump into the air. But transportation fuels such as gasoline have not yet come under the program. That is scheduled to change in January, prompting moderate Democrats and an oil industry-funded campaign to warn about a spike in prices and argue for a delay.

Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, warned that the change would hurt residents of inland districts where unemployment hovers above the state average and long commutes are commonplace. His Assembly Bill 69 would have delayed bringing transportation fuels under the cap-and-trade program. Numerous moderate Democrats signed a letter supporting the concept.

Democratic leaders and environmentalist allies pushed back, saying California must stay the course if the law is to achieve its purpose of curtailing the emissions blamed for global warming. Now Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has all but ensured the change will proceed as planned, saying in a letter to Perea that AB 69 will not receive a hearing before the Aug. 31 end of the legislative session.

“I share your concern about the costs of combating carbon emissions. But the cost of doing nothing is much greater,” the letter reads.

Even if AB 69 had received a hearing, the bill faced long odds in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Perea has acknowledged that dynamic and said he sought to prompt discussion that could inform consumers about potentially higher prices come January.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t, at the minimum, get a hearing,” Perea said Monday in an interview, “because I think that the public was looking for a debate and I was hoping that a hearing would serve as an opportunity for everybody to weigh in.”

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