Capitol Alert

Uncertain fate for greenhouse gas targets at end of legislative session

Among the most closely-watched issues at the end of this legislative session is a Democratic effort to extend California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions reduction target – but it may not be resolved in the next month.

During a press briefing Wednesday, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León was coy about whether he and Gov. Jerry Brown, for whom the issue is a major priority, would be able to reach an agreement with opponents before the Legislature adjourns at the end of August.

“I’d like to get it done this year,” he said. “I’m not going to negotiate a bad deal just to get it done.”

Senate Bill 32, which would reset California’s emissions reduction target from 1990 levels by 2020 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, faltered in the Assembly last year under heavy lobbying by oil companies, but is still eligible for reconsideration.

It has become a particularly pressing issue for environmentalists because of California’s cap-and-trade program, the emissions permits auction created by regulatory authorities to encourage compliance with the law and a significant source of as-yet-untapped revenue for the state. Companies buy the permits three years ahead of time, and the last auction was a disaster amid the growing questions about cap-and-trade’s fate.

That leaves lawmakers with one more year to start over and try again if SB 32 does not pass in August. De León asserted Wednesday at the target extension would happen eventually – and “statutorily, through the legislative process,” not an executive action, as some have speculated Brown might take.

“One way or the other, we’re going to get it done,” he said.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff