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Federal climate bill would whack part of state's law

Photo by Chris Kleponis/National Wildlife FederationNWF's Larry Schweiger, and Sens. Joe Lieberman, John Kerry unveil the American Power Act in Washington D.C.

Environmentalists now face a second fight in their efforts to protect California's landmark global warming law.

Beyond a November ballot initiative that would delay implementation of the state's climate legislation, Congress has added "troubling provisions" into the long-awaited American Power Act that would overrule some parts of state law, environmentalists say.

Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) this week unveiled a draft of their federal climate legislation, in hopes of putting a final bill on President Obama's desk this year. In general, environmentalists have said the bill moves in the right direction, with significant caveats.

Meanwhile, California has been moving aggresively to implement the AB 32, signed in 2006 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The state law sets up a cap-and-trade system for carbon credits, and requires the state's industries to reduce their carbon output by significant levels.

Now, as Craig Miller at KQED's Climate Watch reports, the federal legislation "would halt California's plans for state and regional carbon trading." On the federal legislation, Miller writes:

The cap-and-trade provisions focus on '7,500 factories and power plants,' which is to say those that put out more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon per year. That's the same benchmark used by the federal EPA in its proposed regulations.

Like previous drafts, this one nullifies state and regional carbon regulation, setting up 'one clear set of rules' for industry and providing 'compensation for the revenues lost as a result of the termination of their cap-and-trade programs,' such as California's AB 32, and regional efforts, such as the Western Climate Initiative.

California's Legislative Analyst has estimated that the state has committed about $120 million so far, to the implementation of its 2006 climate law."

David Doniger, policy director of the National Resources Defense Council Climate Center, writes that the federal legislation "does include troubling provisions to curtail some current Clean Air Act authorities and to preempt some state programs."

Doniger said "affected states would receive revenue from the federal allowance auction in place of revenue lost from auctioning allowances at the state level. But states should also retain all their current powers to limit emissions in case the federal program fails to achieve its goals."

As Climate Wire reports today, the energy industry is expected to spend at least $50 million to support legislation on the November ballot that would delay AB 32 until the state's unemployment level sinks from 12.6 percent to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. They have already submitted the 433,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

In response, a group of Silicon Valley venture capital firms and other California technology players are launching their own campaign. The National Venture Capital Association, which represents powerhouse Kleiner Perkins and Nth Power, is on board.

No word yet on whether those firms, or other major players, will actually write checks. From Climate Wire, via the New York Times:

So where will the money originate to defend A.B. 32? On this question, Fowler was coy, as was Steve Maviglio, who manages communications for the Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs campaign. Neither would say if major Silicon Valley players like Google Inc. or the venture giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers have decided to climb aboard.

Maviglio, who has been critical of oil companies for failing to publicly report their financing of the anti-AB 32 efforts, told Climate Wire he should have an announcement on his own donors in a few weeks.

Filed under: Environment, Daily Report


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