California delays its carbon trading program for a year
Facing continued litigation, California officials will delay enforcement of the state's complex carbon trading program until 2013, state Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols announced Wednesday.
The delay in the cap-and-trade program, which was slated to take effect in January, is proposed, she said, because of the "need for all necessary elements to be in place and fully functional."
But in testimony before a state Senate committee, Nichols said the year's delay would not affect the stringency of the program or the amount of greenhouse gases that industries will be forced to cut by the end of the decade.
The cap-and-trade program, championed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a centerpiece of the state's landmark effort to cut planet-warming gases to 1990 levels by 2020. It would cover 600 power plants, factories and other industrial facilities and account for a fifth of the planned cuts under the state's 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act.
Although the carbon trading program has broad support in the environmental community, several neighborhood organizations and environmental justice groups that focus on localized pollution, have been fighting the program in court saying it would allow industrial plants to avoid installing the strictest pollution controls.
In March, a San Francisco judge ruled that the air board had not sufficiently analyzed alternatives to the trading program, as required under California’s Environmental Quality Act. The agency appealed the decision, and an appeals court ruled last week that officials could continue working on the program’s regulation pending the outcome of the appeal.
The board is drafting an analysis of alternatives, but the process has delayed the progress of the program.
Derek Walker of the Environmental Defense Fund, a national group which has championed market-based regulation, praised the delay as a prudent step that "will give the cap-and-trade program its best chance of success...Cap-and-trade... cuts climate change pollution at the lowest possible cost. By getting this right, California will once again serve as a model that other states and countries can follow.”
Photo: Smog clings to Los Angeles' skyline. The cap and trade plan would cut emissions of greenhouse gases that warm the planet. Credit: Nick Ut/Associated Press