California climate bill clears Senate hurdle
UPDATE: 2:30 p.m.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California Senate committee has advanced a bill to extend the state's signature climate change law through 2030.
Democrats on the Environmental Quality Committee backed the legislation in a 5-2 party-line vote on Thursday, pushing it one step closer to a vote on the Senate floor.
The measure gives another 10 years of life to California's cap and trade program, which caps carbon emissions and requires polluters to obtain permits to release greenhouse gases.
Extending the program is a top priority for Gov. Jerry Brown, who is scrambling to line up votes from the required two-thirds of lawmakers.
Democratic lawmakers backed the legislation despite opposition from environmental justice organizations that have long been skeptical of cap and trade. They say the program allows oil refineries and other polluters to continue releasing greenhouse gases as long as they pay a fee.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown painted a bleak picture of a state ravaged by climate change and consumers facing higher costs for food and gas as he implored state lawmakers Thursday to grant his request to extend the state's signature climate initiative.
California's longest-serving governor, who has spent most of his life in and around public service, told lawmakers "this is the most important vote of your life."
He is scrambling to line up support for his plan in the face of opposition from conservatives who warn about costs and liberals who say it doesn't do enough to protect the environment and clean dirty air. A vote is scheduled for Monday.
Brown said his advocacy is not about him or his legacy; at 79, he said, he'll be dead before the worst ravages of climate change take their toll.
"A lot of you people are going to be alive," he said, turning to a room packed with lobbyists and advocates on both sides of the debate. "And you're going to be alive in a horrible situation that you're going to see mass migrations, vector diseases, forest fires, Southern California blowing up. That's real, guys."
Brown is pressing lawmakers to extend California's cap-and-trade legislation, which puts a limit on carbon emissions and requires polluters to obtain permits to release greenhouse gases. The governor touts the program around the world as an effective way to affordably address climate change, but its legal authorization expires in 2020. The current proposal would expand the program until 2030.
However, environmental justice advocates say concessions he made to the oil industry and other polluters will harm the environment. The bill prohibits local air quality districts from further restricting carbon emissions of stationary sources like oil refineries.
Environmentalists also have been unmoved by companion legislation that aims to monitor and improve air quality around major sources of pollution. The air quality bill, though, is sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who has pushed for any cap-and-trade deal to focus on local air pollution. She hasn't publicly commented on the full cap-and-trade deal.
Brown also lost support from Republican lawmakers he's been openly courting and will likely need to reach a two-thirds majority of support for the bill. Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez said Brown met with 10 Republicans in his office this week to discuss cap and trade. Included in the legislation is a repeal of the fire prevention fee and tax exemptions for power companies, both sought by Republicans.
But early Thursday, Assembly GOP Leader Chad Mayes said none of his caucus members are currently supporting the legislation. Republicans want to see more tax cuts and regulatory relief, he said. Eleven of 13 Senate Republicans signed a letter saying they oppose extending cap and trade.
Legislative leaders had originally hoped to vote Thursday on the legislation, but have pushed a vote off until Monday, suggesting negotiations on housing legislation may now be part of the mix.
The delay "will also allow our discussion on long-term housing affordability solutions in California to catch up to the climate effort," Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a joint statement.
In the past, Brown has vetoed bills to fund subsidized housing, saying he prefers to axe regulations that slow and increase the cost of housing production. Brown's eagerness to pass a cap-and-trade bill could give lawmakers leverage to strike a deal with him on affordable housing funding.
Democratic lawmakers pushing to address the housing crisis have put forth measures to reduce local regulation of housing construction and to fund subsidized units for low-income people.
Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener, who wrote one of the major housing proposals, said he hopes several bills to address both funding for affordable housing and streamlining of housing construction will advance in the legislature in a package as early as next week.
"I do have colleagues, particularly in the Assembly, who are advocating linking cap and trade and housing but I can't speak to where those discussions are," said Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat.
The average California home costs more than twice the average U.S. home and average monthly rent in the state is 50 percent higher than the rest of the country, according to a Legislative Analyst's Office report from 2015. Many Californians lack access to affordable housing because of the high costs and low housing supply.
Associated Press writers Kathleen Ronayne and Sophia Bollag contributed.