Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California cap-and-trade fight shifts to executive branch

California Gov. Jerry Brown, right, speaks to reporters with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, left, and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard at the Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, right, speaks to reporters with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, left, and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard at the Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto on Wednesday, July 8, 2015. AP

Cap-and-trade’s future could run through the governor’s office.

The cornerstone of California’s climate change policies has looked wobbly of late. A recent auction of permits to emit greenhouse gases, which before had generated hundreds of millions of dollars, sold a fraction of available credits and reaped just $10 million for California. The legal underpinnings of emissions targets have been cast into doubt. And a 2020 sunset in law has exposed the program’s vulnerability to political headwinds. Word is Gov. Jerry Brown has been seeking a path to an extension vote, but getting through the Legislature could prove tough, as last year’s climate fight demonstrated.

So today’s action unfolds not at the Capitol but at the Air Resources Board, where regulators are expected to post the nascent version of proposed amendments to sustain cap-and-trade beyond 2020 and establish new emissions caps. A vote on those amendments isn’t expected to occur until spring 2017. But we’re keeping an eye on the effort to preserve a program that’s a big deal not just for California but for global climate change politics.

ENERGIZED: Though California likes to tout its national leadership on renewable energy policy, citing both cap-and-trade and the new law mandating a huge increase in cleaner electricity, the debate over Senate Bill 350 also highlighted the fact that when it comes to energy, it’s hard to be an island. The bill demanded a study of an inter-state energy consortium, which has some environmentalists worried about tying California to carbon-intensive energy sources like coal. Today the California Independent System Operator releases its report on what a regional energy market might look like; you can find it here.

GENERATING JOBS: Speaking of renewable energy economics, legislative Democrats will be promoting a new report on clean energy jobs from the University of California, Berkeley’s Don Vial Center on the Green Economy. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, the author of SB 350 who has long promoted renewable energy policies as a jobs program, will be speaking with Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, and Jeremy Smith of the State Building and Construction Trades Council during a 10 a.m. event at a union job training center at 2836 El Centro Road in Sacramento.

PESTICIDE PROJECT: Activists have been demanding tougher state pesticide regulations to protect children who attend schools near farms. A 2014 California Environmental Health Tracking Program report found that over 500,000 pounds of pesticides of “public health concern” had been applied near schools, with Hispanic kids disproportionately likely to be affected. The Department of Pesticide Control is developing rules to establish a statewide standard to inform nearby schools and restrict the application of certain pesticides. Draft regulations are expected by the end of the summer, but protesters are still pushing. They’re planning to gather today to ask the state to move faster and to reiterate their demand for a one-mile, pesticide-free buffer zone around schools (the department could not confirm if the planned regulation will cover that). Representatives of organizations like the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council and the Center for Farmworker Families will rally outside CalEPA headquarters on I street today starting at 11 a.m.

SPACED OUT: Commercial space flight increasingly looks like a viable business, so much so that California enacted a tax break to help the burgeoning industry. What happens next could be trickier. Today the Franchise Tax Board will contemplate how taxing space flight might work, potentially moving toward adopting new regulations to deal with how a space company’s income is determined and taxed. Board members will head to infinity and beyond starting at 1:30 p.m. at 9646 Butterfield Way.

PROPOSITION DOUGH: Get the latest totals of how much money proponents and opponents of November ballot measure have raised at The Money Trail.

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