Digesting California’s Legislative Session

Events bounced around at such a rapid pace in Sacramento the final week of the legislative session, onlookers might have easily mistaken the State Capitol as the home of the World Championships of Ping-Pong. At the center of it all was the debate over extending California’s carbon reduction program, which calls for emissions to be lowered 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 as well as authorizing the state’s cap-and-trade program to price carbon to pay for investments in clean energy, mass transportation alternatives, building retrofits and healthier forests and watersheds to meet the targeted reductions.

Capitol Building in Sacramento

Capitol Building in Sacramento

With a two-thirds vote of the legislature necessary to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program beyond 2020 unlikely, the legislature opted for a piecemeal approach to tackling climate instead, codifying and extending the landmark AB 32 legislation (which had mandated emissions reductions by 2020 to 1990 levels) through 2030. It also passed legislation to direct more Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) money generated by the cap-and-trade program to lower income and rural communities that suffer from the effects of poor air quality, and to give the legislature greater oversight over the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the primary agency tasked with overseeing distribution of money from the GGRF.

 

While recent estimates of the fund show an excess of $2 billion to spend on carbon reduction strategies, poor recent returns from California’s carbon emission auctions amid the uncertainty over the program’s fate post-2020 led the legislature to appropriate only about half the money in 2016. Of those funds, $50 million was appropriated for methane reductions from dairy and livestock operations, although $15 million of that is earmarked for the Healthy Soils Program and State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program.

While $35 million is significantly less than the $100 million dairy and biogas supporters were seeking to make a dent in short-lived climate pollutants deemed a priority by CARB, it puts a down payment on the investment in dairy digesters Gov. Brown’s administration believes is necessary if the state is to meet it’s long term climate strategy. The good news is, like in baseball, there’s always next year.