If Gov. Jerry Brown’s cap-and-trade deal can help us reduce the number of kids suffering from childhood asthma, if it can give our communities help in cleansing the haze from our air, if it can help make the climate even a little cooler, then we’re willing to support it.
That doesn’t mean we’re going to love it.
Brown re-imagined his cap-and-trade proposal in ways he hopes will win support from Republicans, Democrats, industry and environmentalists. Only a politician of Brown’s skill could dream of creating compromise that broad. It’s got something for everyone, but no one gets everything they want.
Maybe that’s why Brown is acting early. California’s cap-and-trade program won’t expire until 2020, but the governor wants to extend it before the next auction takes place in August and before his tenure (and influence) winds down next year.
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He’s been telling editorial writers that doing nothing would result in “tragedy.” We’re more optimistic.
Legislators began hearings on the two-bill package Wednesday, with both houses likely voting Thursday. Approval by a two-thirds majority is needed, though by no means assured.
Under AB 398, the California Air Resources Board, already among the most powerful entities in the state, gains greater power to help the state reach its 2030 goals (greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels).
To entice businesses, it will also continue a sales tax exemption on new emission-control equipment for manufacturers – a smart step under any circumstances. A provision intended to gain oil industry support would take the authority over greenhouse gas emissions away from local air districts. That’s one of several provisions environmentalists hate.
To win support from urban Democrats, AB 617 seeks to clean the air in the worst basins – like ours. It would increase monitoring (a step we endorse) and impose stricter penalties on polluters. It would expand annual reporting requirements to stationary sources of pollution (factories) and require local air boards to publish data on their websites. It also requires the state to reimburse some “mandated” costs.
To gain Republican support, Brown wants to suspend a tax he pushed in 2011 on people living in forested areas to help pay for firefighting and suppression.
One issue left unexplained was how to offset costs paid by lower-income Californians. Cap-and-trade adds about 11 cents to the price of a gallon of gas (on top of California’s cleaner formulation, road taxes, etc.), and that’s likely to go up eventually. Who gets hurt the most by such fees? Commuters, farmers and workers who drive older (less fuel efficient) vehicles to get to jobs often far from their homes. Sounds like a lot of people we know.
Reductions attributed to the “cap” piece of the program have been minimal, but the “trade” part has provided $4 billion for the state. As we have suggested before, we’d like to see a portion of the cap-and-trade money returned to those most impacted. A Valley bonus for helping low-income residents buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. Grants for developing more robust transit opportunities using cleaner engines.
Some 60 percent of trade revenues are earmarked for transit, housing and high-speed rail.
Many people around here don’t like the “crazy train,” but we believe in it. Making commutes to the Bay Area more convenient – which it will do – is a good idea. If the governor doesn’t have the train on the right track before leaving office, it could well be derailed.
In Brown’s proposal, no one gets everything, and everyone gets something. That’s called compromise. It’s also called progress.