California may repeal Grenhouse bill that Oregon almost had

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Oregon successfully fought a more onerous bill in 2009
by: John Ledger
Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largest business advocate

A vigorous effort is underway in California to put  Assembly Bill 32, the all-inclusive Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction measure passed in 2006, in the closet until the state has four consecutive quarters of unemployment at 5.5% or under (i.e., forever).   The restrictions to be placed on Californians by AB 32 are just starting to be realized. AB 32 delegates enormous authority to various state agencies to devise and impose GHG reduction mandates and penalties through rulemaking. The measures would not be limited to large power plants, but include every aspect of one’s life including private automobile use, buildings, transportation options, construction, and home heating.

Several factors coalesced to fuel the repeal effort. Even initial proposals by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), such as making it illegal to buy cars of certain colors, fines for not checking tire pressure, and mandating tinted windows, have not been well received. The state’s economy is in horrible shape with no improvement in sight. Near-term energy costs are projected to increase dramatically. And California’s partner states (including Oregon) who were supposed to join in the Western Climate Initiative Cap and Trade scheme, have either bailed out or are standing on the sidelines, leaving the Golden State alone to Cap and Trade itself into an increasingly dark economic corner.

The increasing nervousness about AB 32 has generated, predictably, much political posturing. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter to CARB asking for a slowdown of the whole AB 32 process, especially Cap and Trade. In what can only be read with fascination, the letter first goes to great length to establish his environmental bona fides before requesting a stall on the rulemaking. CARB may ignore such a request and, indeed, may be legally bound to do so. Nonetheless, the letter was worth writing as it simultaneously peeved both supporters and opponents, something always worth watching.  At the same time, Democratic gubernatorial nominee-apparent Jerry Brown, (ex-governor/boyfriend of Linda Ronstadt) and Republican aspirants have taken polar opposite positions on the measure.

Passed in 2006, AB 32 is much more restrictive than anything yet proposed by the Obama administration or Congress. AB 32 requires that by 2020 California’s greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels, about a 25 percent reduction from today’s levels. SB 80, the erstwhile Oregon proposal, would have forced another five percent reduction by any means necessary including capping gasoline use and home heating. SB 80 was strongly opposed by AOI and a broad business/labor coalition and died in the state senate after extensive hearings. Many AOI members provided effective testimony and letters in opposition to the bill.

If sufficient signatures are gathered, the measure will appear on the November California ballot.