LWVC Success: Cap and Trade Is Extended

California lawmakers extended cap and trade to 2030 with the passage of AB 398 in a 2/3 bipartisan vote on July 17. Cap and trade had been otherwise set to expire in 2020.

The League of Women Voters of California worked hard for the passage of AB 398 and for its companion legislation, AB 617 (improve air quality).

In our lobbying efforts, we wrote a letter of support and co-signed another with like-minded organizations. We also personally lobbied targeted legislators (all of whom voted yes).

Earlier we had supported AB 378 which failed in the Assembly. AB 398 and AB 617 were derived from AB 378. We had been watching and studying the proposed bills and the arguments for and against, and once the language of the two bills was released, we decided on our position.

There was concern from some environmental organizations that AB 398 was a “giveaway” to oil interests because it restricts local air districts from regulating carbon dioxide. The restriction is only on carbon dioxide, which is already covered by cap and trade. The legislation does not limit authority of air districts on emissions of any pollutant other than carbon dioxide.

In League tradition, we make our decisions based on our own study and understanding of the issues and the proposed legislation.  In this case, we do not agree with the claims that this is a giveaway to the oil industry, because the basic regulations over emissions, refineries, etc. are still intact, and the incentives through cap and trade on carbon dioxide will work their way to the targeted carbon emission reductions. 

Further, benefits of the legislation outweigh any doubts. AB 398 eliminates the uncertainty around whether cap and trade will continue beyond 2020. Cap and trade is an excellent method to reduce emissions. Not only is it effective, but it is the lowest cost alternative as described by the World Bank. Further, in their scoping plan, the California Air Resources Board shows that we will not meet our 2030 goal of 40% below 1990 emissions by 2030 unless we have cap and trade. Finally, other benefits added to AB 398 include further oversight, education and training, mitigation of negative impacts, and reduction in offsets.

The 2/3 vote by which AB 398 passed is important. Cap and trade in California has been hampered by litigation claiming that cap and trade is a tax and therefore needs a 2/3 vote. That was not the case with authorizing legislation – AB 32 (2006). With the current 2/3 vote, the argument is moot.

AB 617, the companion bill to AB 398, increases monitoring of pollutants and toxic contaminants not covered by cap and trade and requires installation of retrofit technology for sources not in compliance. It will both improve air quality and go a long way to addressing our concerns about public health impacts on low-income and minority communities with increased documentation and community-level plans, and even greater ability to address health issues.

There will always be tradeoffs in legislation, and disagreements as to purpose and outcomes perceived. LWVC feels confident in our support of AB 398 and AB 617 which are well within our established League positions.

Diz Swift

LWVC Climate Change Program Director


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