Capitol Alert

California Assembly approves climate change law

Jerry Brown: 'We're not even close to where we need to be' on climate change

Gov. Jerry Brown discussed climate change at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
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Gov. Jerry Brown discussed climate change at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

After an intense floor debate, a bill extending California’s greenhouse gas emission targets squeaked by in the Assembly on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 32 was seen as a crucial step for reauthorizing the state’s cap-and-trade program. Gov. Jerry Brown, who said he will sign the measure once it is approved by the Senate, attempted to include an amendment specifically extending cap-and-trade authority but was rebuffed by lawmakers.

The bill now requires a 40 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2030. The current climate law, AB 32, required the state to reach 1990 levels by 2020.

“With SB 32 we continue California’s leadership on climate change,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount. Rendon acknowledged that the bill does not expressly extend the cap-and-trade program, but said it was “a piece of the puzzle” and that he is committed to continuing the program.

The bill, which cleared the lower house 42-29 – one vote more than the 41-vote minimum – pitted the oil industry against environmentalists in heavy lobbying, and is almost certain to be approved by the Senate.

The bill’s passage comes a year after talks surrounding an emissions reduction target fell apart in the Legislature.

The legislation gained passage wedded to a companion measure, Assembly Bill 197, to increase legislative oversight of the controversial California Air Resources Board.

Democratic lawmakers painted the climate package as necessary to wrest control of the state’s climate programs back from Brown’s administration.

“We are getting, as a part of this package, very, very important institutional reforms,” said Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova.

The bill, while not including cap and trade, could provide a point of leverage in negotiations with moderate Democrats over the controversial program’s extension – with proponents likely to cast cap and trade as an alternative to other, less flexible means of meeting targets included in SB 32.

Brown and his staff reached out to lawmakers privately on Tuesday to lobby for the bill, and he said in a prepared statement that he will sign both SB 32 and AB 197. Brown ripped into what he called “the brazen deception of the oil lobby and their Trump-inspired allies who deny science and fight every reasonable effort to curb global warming.”

“With these bills, California’s charting a clear path on climate beyond 2020 and we’ll continue to work to shore up the cap-and-trade program, reduce super pollutants and direct more investment to disadvantaged communities.”

Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist who has been airing television ads critical of the state’s oil industry, was in the Capitol on Tuesday, too. He said he was in Sacramento for unrelated meetings and did not know the measure would be taken up for a vote that day.

“There’s no question that the leadership in the Senate and in the Legislature were very committed to this,” he said. “Congratulations to them.”

The bill drew support from only one Republican, Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin.

In stiff opposition, other Republicans argued that the climate targets hurt businesses in California, and that the bill vests too much authority in the Air Resources Board.

“SB 32 grants even more power to this unelected body,” said Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, R-Escondido.

In his floor remarks, Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, called out Steyer, a potential candidate for governor in 2018.

“You’re dancing to the flute of a rich, hedge-fund billionaire that’s running for governor,” Gallagher said.

David Siders of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

Anshu Siripurapu: 916-321-1060, @AnshuSiripurapu