Capitol Alert

Methane-limiting measure heads to Jerry Brown

A 15-minute-old newborn Holstein calf watches as his mother cleans his body after giving birth at the Califronia State Fair on September 2, 2009. Dairies would be affected by a new law limiting some emissions.
A 15-minute-old newborn Holstein calf watches as his mother cleans his body after giving birth at the Califronia State Fair on September 2, 2009. Dairies would be affected by a new law limiting some emissions. aalfaro@sacbee.com

Moving to expand California’s already-sweeping efforts to blunt climate change, lawmakers on Tuesday sent Gov. Jerry Brown legislation to limit methane from sources like landfills and dairies.

Much of the debate around climate change policies has focused on the climate-altering effects of burning petroleum. But gases known as “short-lived climate pollutants,” like methane, can have powerful effects even as they dissipate relatively quickly.

Under Senate Bill 1383, the Air Resources Board would have a mandate to cut such emissions by 40 percent. As with other climate bills, the measure had to scale a wall of resistance from oil industry groups and business associations.

But SB 1383 squeaked past the finish line with Brown himself making calls to members, marking the final climate fight of a session filled with them.

It passed the Assembly, typically more treacherous territory for climate bills, with the minimum margin on a 41-22 vote. The Senate then advanced the bill to Brown on a 25-12 vote.

Members speaking in support of the measure framed it as a public health bill that would lengthen lives and combat ailments like asthma.

“A child born in certain parts of my district, their lifespan would be cut down by 14 years,” said Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond. “Short-lived climate pollutants,” he added, “their impact is lasting.”

Landfills and dairy producers would bear much of the responsibility for making such reduction. Organic waste in landfills emits methane as it decomposes, prompting California to encourage the elimination of green waste from garbage dumps. The bill would dictate a 75 percent cut in organic waste by 2025.

Raising dairy livestock also involves a fair amount of gas, some of it from the stomachs of belching cows, and the measure would compel dairies to reduce the methane they produce by 40 percent as of 2030.

The dairy industry had launched a new lobbying and public relations campaign to try and block new mandates. But that opposition fell away as the bill was amended to allow more time for less severe cuts.

And a provision amended into the bill specifically addresses regulations on gassy bovines, saying such limits can only proceed if the ARB and the California Department of Food and Agriculture identify a workable way to limit cow methane.

“You can’t drive by a freeway by a dairy and not smell it and not know, we should probably do something,” said Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton. “If you think dairy should be able to have a voice in your own future,” she added, “vote yes.”

Earlier in the day, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators cemented a deal allocating revenue from the state’s cap-and-trades program to both areas. The pact would allocate $40 million to the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery and would spent $50 million on dairy and livestock related methane cuts.

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

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