Calling California’s cap-and-trade program the most efficient way to fight climate change, Governor Jerry Brown told lawmakers extending the program is “the most important vote of your life.”
In a highly unusual show of support, Brown sat through the entire four-hour Senate committee hearing on the bill and its companion measure.
“You have an incredible mechanism that protects our economy and reduces greenhouse gases. Don’t throw this thing out,” Brown said. “This isn’t for me. I’m going to be dead. It’s for you. It’s for you. And it’s (climate change) damn real. So I just ask you, take it seriously and give us that vote.”
Under the cap-and-trade system, businesses buy and trade the right to produce emissions, creating a pollution market that shrinks over time.
California is responsible for about 1 percent of global emissions, but Brown believes the state can demonstrate climate change policies to other governments. China and Mexico have both consulted with California as they develop their own cap-and-trade programs.
But the program’s set to expire in 2020, the same time as California’s targets ramp up. He needs two-thirds of lawmakers to support an extension.
Republicans will not support cap-and-trade
Nearly all Republicans declined on Thursday, despite tax breaks included in the measure to attract their support.
Both the Assembly and Senate GOP caucuses announced their opposition to the bill, with two Republican Senators not stating a position.
“We will not support a deal that doesn’t cut taxes, roll back regulations and protect ordinary Californians,” Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes said in a statement.
During the Thursday hearing, Republican Senator Jeff Stone told the governor his party had been left out of the negotiating process.
“You excluded Republicans during this whole discussion, until the last minute when you need a couple of our votes to get it across,” Stone said, and then referenced an earlier criticism of federal lawmakers by Brown. “I agree with the governor, I don’t like how things are done in Washington, D.C., Mr. Governor. I like collaboration.”
GOP lawmakers called the bill “a massive tax,” due to expected increases to energy prices as companies meet stricter emissions limits. They cited a study by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, which found gas prices could rise by anywhere from 15 to 73 cents a gallon, as the state meets those limits.
But the cap-and-trade measure does not set those limits, which are already law. And that same LAO analysis calls cap-and-trade the most cost-effective way to achieve them. Brown emphasized that point.
“We’re moving forward with cap-and-trade being continued by this two-thirds vote or we’re going to regulation: command and control,” Brown said. “And the Air Resources Board will regulate the food processing, the oil industry, the cement industry in a way that is not efficient—that will be three to five times more costly. And, yes, that will be noticed by your constituents.”
The bill got a boost from the California Chamber of Commerce, which called cap-and-trade the “least costly path” to meet those limits.
With a lack of Republican support, Brown will need nearly all of the Legislature’s Democrats to support the measure over opposition from community environmental groups who dislike the cap-and-trade market.
“I will tell you we are going to get it,” Brown said, during the hearing. “Whatever I got to do, we are going to do it. And the people that join with us, I will do whatever I can to help you in the following years here.”
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