The attempt to derail California’s clean-air policies

California businesses and the public at large are beginning to reap the substantial rewards of our state’s landmark clean air and energy policies. Unfortunately, this progress is in significant jeopardy thanks to the oil industry and other dirty energy companies that continue to do everything possible to undermine these laws. It is important to remember the long history of these efforts by looking at the facts – and that means treading over some familiar turf.


AB 32, the law of the land for more than six years and consistently supported by California voters, utilizes an innovative combination of traditional regulation and flexible, market-based strategies to achieve carbon reductions. Included in the suite of policies that is AB 32 are the recently launched cap and trade program and a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), both of which are spurring investments in clean energy technologies and creating jobs.


Small and large companies across the state have embraced these policies, and are already working to reduce waste, improve energy efficiency, and delivering real consumer choice while  remaining or even improving profits as a result. Meanwhile, the oil industry and its old manufacturing friends consistently work to avoid complying with AB 32 and the LCFS through legal and other challenges, all the while claiming that it will be too expensive to meet the standards.


Yet, oil and gas companies are spending more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers with the hope of overturning AB 32 and the LCFS. One of the oil industry’s lead lobbying groups, Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009 and the oil industry as a whole has spent more than $32 million. All of this spending is designed to keep Californians dependent on dirty oil to the tune of $60 billion annually.


Last summer WSPA commissioned a study on AB 32’s cap and trade and LCFS provisions. Unlike previous peer-reviewed analyses, the WSPA report predicted that the LCFS would hurt California’s economy. Because the findings of this report were such extreme outliers compared to other analyses of the LCFS’s economic ramifications, my organization asked the highly-regarded technology development and consulting firm, TIAX, to evaluate the study. Not surprisingly given the study’s sponsor, TIAX found several significant inaccuracies and faulty assumptions in the report, which called the entire study into question.


Just last week, an oil industry-funded political organization called “Fueling California” held a closed-door meeting under the guise of having a “technical workshop” to discuss the LCFS. It was reported by people in attendance that when audience members inquired about why certain interest groups weren’t in the room, event representatives said that those interest groups “boycotted” the event. No such boycott occurred. When business people, developers of clean fuel technologies, and policy analysts asked if they could attend, they were told “no.” Even technical experts at the California Air Resources Board – the very people charged with implementing the standard – were not invited.


This calls Fueling California’s whole mission and purpose into question. But then again, the organization closely aligns itself with the same organizations – WSPA, AB 32 Implementation Group, California Manufacturers & Technology Association – that were behind the failed Proposition 23 campaign, which tried to kill AB 32 in 2010. And Fueling California consistently uses its meetings and other communications platforms to highlight thoroughly debunked oil company-funded research aimed at derailing the state’s clean air standards.


I haven’t spent much time here sharing the substantial evidence that AB 32 and the LCFS are tremendous economic drivers, but the facts are clear. Nor have I touted the research that shows that affordable, available technology exists to meet these standards, but the research is unmistakable. I haven’t highlighted why AB 32 and LCFS are good for our state’s residents and businesses because this is all familiar turf for Californians who have seen these deceptive tactics, deep-pocketed lobbyists and slick marketing campaigns before.


The bottom line is that the oil industry and its friends are spending tens of millions of dollars lobbying the Legislature, commissioning flawed studies, and hosting closed-door events, all designed to manufacture a false consensus around the need to overturn clean air laws that are improving California’s economy and are supported by the public. Sound familiar?

Ed’s Note: Susan Frank is director of the California Business Alliance for a Green Economy, a network of more than 1,250 businesses and business organizations supporting California policies that move the state toward a clean and efficient economy.

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: