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Dear Jerry, Break Up With Cap-And-Trade: Sierra Club’s open letter to Governor Brown criticizes AB 32’s cap-and-trade regulation

Earlier this month, the director of the Sierra Club of California, Bill Magavern, wrote an open letter to Governor Jerry Brown asking that his administration “re-evaluate” the cap-and-trade regulation adopted by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) in December of last year. The cap-and-trade program is one of the strategies being employed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, as mandated by AB 32 (known as the “Global Warming Solutions Act”). (But, you already know this since you read our blog ALL the time… right??)

In the letter the Sierra Club criticizes the cap-and-trade program for a number of reasons including the following:

  • the regulation allows polluting companies to purchase offsets from outside the state and country, “undermin[ing] the very purposes of California’s AB 32 cap on emissions”
  • the regulation “call[s] into question its compliance with the environmental justice requirements of AB 32”
  • concern that the regulation’s “forestry offsets” will pave the way for “forest clearcutting and conversion of native forests to tree plantations”
  • enforcement nightmares including problems linked to offsets, like “jurisdiction, verification, and certainty”
  • the regulation “makes unwarranted gifts of emission allowances to industries” with the “biggest recipients … [being] the oil extraction and refining industries”

Governor Brown’s office issued a response to the letter stating that he would “carefully examine the concerns raised by the Sierra Club and looks forward to working with them and other stakeholders in making sure that AB 32 is properly and vigorously implemented.”

The letter comes on the heels of, ironically, another environmental group’s challenge of the embattled law. In that challenge, a San Francisco Superior Court Judge sided with the plaintiffs in finding that the ARB violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it adopted its scoping plan and the cap-and-trade regulation, halting the statute’s implementation… for the time being.

With the cap-and-trade program currently in a state of suspended animation due to this court case, it is interesting that the Sierra Club chose to release this letter now. It leads this blogger to wonder… what is their angle? Are they trying to influence the future of the litigation/appeals process (which is also focused primarily on the environmental justice issue)? Are they trying to gain some sort of break for low income segments of the population that is not currently part of the cap-and-trade regulation? Or do they believe that this litigation is inevitably just a temporary set back for the regulation and figured now is as good a time as any? Only time will tell.

Categories: Climate Change