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Judge places California's global warming program on hold

Valero's Wilmington refinery, near the Port of Long Beach.

A San Francisco superior court judge has put California's sweeping plan to curb greenhouse gas pollution on hold, saying the state did not adequately evaluate alternatives to its cap-and-trade program.

In a 35-page decision, Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith said the Air Resources Board had failed to consider public comments on the proposed measures before adopting the plan, which affects a broad swath of the state's economy. In particular, the judge noted, officials gave short shrift to analyzing a carbon fee, or carbon tax, devoting a “scant two paragraphs to this important alternative” to a market-based trading system in their December 2008 plan.

The air board said it would appeal the judge's decision, which was filed late Friday and released Monday.

The potential setback in California, the first state to enact a broad global warming law, comes amid heightened nationwide controversy over how to curb the gases that trap heat in Earth's atmosphere, and change climates. A cap-nd-trade bill passed the U.S. House in 2009, but failed in the Senate after intense opposition from the coal and oil industries. With the election of more business-oriented politicians last November, the measure is considered dead in the short term.

In the November election, however, Californians voted down a oil-refinery-sponsored ballot initiative to delay the state's global warming law, which is touted as a spur to California’s fast-growing renewable energy industry. The 2006 law requires the state to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The California lawsuit was filed by six environmental groups that represent low-income communities, including the Association of Irritated Residents, based in the San Joaquin Valley, and Communities for A Better Environment, which fights pollution around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The groups contend that a cap-and-trade program would allow refineries, power plants and other big facilities in poor neighborhoods to avoid cutting emissions of both greenhouse gases and traditional air pollutants.

“This decision is good for low-income communities like Wilmington, Carson and Richmond,” said Bill Gallegos, executive director of Communities for a Better Environment. “It means that oil refineries, which emit enormous amounts of greenhouse gases and contribute to big health problems, cannot simply keep polluting by purchasing pollution credits, or doing out of state projects.”

California's cap-and-trade program was strongly backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over the objections of groups that prefer direct regulations, or a carbon tax, on industrial polluters. Under the market-based system, companies can meet their obligations by purchasing credits from other companies, or from projects such as forest preservation that cut pollution more cheaply.

“Claims of environmental harm from a program of tradable allowances for greenhouse gases are unfounded,” the Air Resources Board said in a statement on the judge’s decision.

The board’s attorneys will meet with plaintiffs about complying with the order without halting all aspects of its global warming plan. Besides the cap-and-trade program, which covers 600 industrial plants, the plan includes rules to curb the carbon intensity of gasoline production and distribution, slash motor-vehicle emissions and control potent greenhouse gases such as refrigerants.

“We believe plaintiffs did not intend to put on hold efforts to improve energy efficiency, establish clean car standards and develop low carbon fuel regulations,” the board said. Such a “broadly written” order, “puts at risk a range of efforts to move California to a clean energy economy,” it added.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress backing carbon fees over cap-and-trade systems, and a carbon tax is enjoying widespread support in British Columbia, where it is offset by cuts to other taxes. But the administration of California Gov. Jerry Brown has given no indication of whether it would be open to similar alternatives.

Politically influential green groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council have backed a cap-and-trade approach, and did not join the lawsuit by environmental justice groups.


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Oil Refineries launched a ballot initiative against California's global warming law

--Margot Roosevelt

PHOTO: Valero's Wilmington refinery, near the Port of Long Beach. The company was the main funder of Proposition 23, a ballot initiative to suspend California's global-warming law. And it would be among 600 industrial facilities covered by the state's cap-and-trade program. Christina House /Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (219)

The comments to this entry are closed.

The U.S. House passed the Cap and Trade bill in 2009, not last year.

"Claims of environmental benefits from a program of tradable allowances for greenhouse gases are unfounded,” the Air Resources Board said in a statement on the judge’s decision. [FIXED]

Global Warming is a fairytale... But, say it were true.

Can anyone name an alternative energy source that businesses can use that isn't double, triple or quadruple the costs of traditional power sources?

If you reply to this... list your sources, of which of course, you won't be able too... because none exist!

Hang in there, Judge Goldsmith. It's just leftists crying when their own last resort weapon is used against them.
Greenhouse gas legislation is a crock.

California's extreme environmental laws and regulations are a major cause of companies moving or expanding out of our State. Where will people find jobs in California? As these companies move, so do the taxes they pay. Budget deficits for cities and California will continue for many years to come.

I can't believe you much if you don't have correct grammar. Correct it if you want me to continue reading.

This is great news! The last thing California needs right now is more government regulation. Technologies for better energy will grow in time, and when they are cost effective, private companies will jump on. Until then, putting more government regulations in place to just drive even more jobs out of state or out of the country to places where the regulations aren't as high.

Mommy look! Real live shills in the comments section!

We are preparing your atmosphere for our arrival. Your only chance of stopping us is to maintain you past atmosphere. It could be a life or death decision, for humanity. If it gets warm enough, here we come. Don't let my superiors know that I told you so.

Climate change. PT Barnum's home run.

Liberals are the problem. 2012. Solve the problem.

Even though Cap 'N Trade (with Crunchberries) is a scam to have big pollutors pay cash to environmaniacs for the right to dump, it's a policy decision. It's none of a judge's danged business what policy the state decides to use. If the judge ruled the policy would not work and, thus, do harm... well, that's one thing. "Analyze alternatives" is out of a judge's purvey. Judges are trying to take over the country in a slow, methodical coup.

In addition to donations, to Save the Redwoods, let Unical pay for STRs projects.

The ruling was probably too broad, as stated by the board's attorneys. But the cap and trade portion of the law seems boneheaded. Why create a market economy on pollution. If the problem is too much carbon is being released into the atmosphere by certain companies/industries, why not simply establish a cap, without giving the polluter an option to buy the right to pollute.

It's hilarious that environmentalists are putting the kibosh on a bad environmental law pushed by other environmentalists. Even funnier is the sleazy, dishonest, tendentious, and didactic "reporting."

This sentence is a real winner:

"The potential setback in California, the first state to enact a broad global warming law, comes amid heightened nationwide controversy over how to curb the gases that trap heat in Earth's atmosphere, and change climates. "

Thinking the reader won't notice, the writer neatly glides over the assumption that blocking the law is a "setback" and moves right along to the preposterous idea that the big controversy is over HOW to control CO2 emissions.

Very slick. Apparently, there is no controversy over whether man's production of CO2 is a significant contributor to warming, whether warming is such a bad thing, and whether California's puny and expensive efforts to cut CO2 can ever make any significant difference (aside from further destroying the California economy). That is, WHETHER we should be trying to cut CO2 at all.

Fire M. Roosevelt and her editors!

Isn't it interesting that 'carbon' dioxide that humans exhale and trees depend on to live is counted as 'greenhouse gases' harmful to the environment, but nuclear radiation plumes from the Japan meltdown are completely harmless? ..but I digress..

Tripling our energy bills will really help to stop 'global warming', won't it? If California would have tripled our energy bills years ago, that polar bear Knut might still be alive today.

At least if this energy tax goes into effect, the poor will start paying their fair share of taxation for a change. The rich have been footing the tax bill for too long. Support Cap&Trade to TAX THE POOR!

nothing california does will have any effect on global warming -- as long as china and india and brazil (etc) continue to grow.

it's not something that can be solved at all -- much less on a local scale. fuel efficiency on the other hand is a good goal -- and lowering toxic emissions, and CA has been good about that in the past.

but this weird focus on c02 is -- just strange. every ounce of coal and oil and natural gas on the planet will be burned. there's no way around that.

the only effect of this cap and trade stuff would be to make businesses relocate.

Funny how no one is complaining about judicial activism against the will of the people now. That too, overwhelming will of the people

Perhaps that is only reserved to strip homosexuals of their right to equality.

This effort is well-intended but totally off the mark and is based on fundamental ignorance about how life on Mother Earth operates. We cannot hope to slow or stop global warming. We can realistically, however, reduce, stop, or even reverse the much more serious problem of ocean acidification by reducing our atmspheric CO2 emissions.

We need our government representatives to scrap their boneheaded global warming initiatives and instead launch a major program to stop "Ocean Acidification."

This is an egregious example of the corporate takeover of our courts. This court presented no constitutional basis for striking down this law - they simply state that they don't like the law. The legislators carefully considered and passed this law, & it survived a strong challenge from the wealthy and powerful elite. The law should stand, and the corot judge should be impeached.

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