Behind the scenes in the Capitol, the wrangling over the unprecedented
two-pronged plan to attack global warming is intense. Two major pieces of
legislation have been amended several times–one was completely rewritten in
April–and the bills have ricocheted separately from committee to committee.
The bills’ torturous paths partly stem from parliamentary maneuvers by
supporters to keep the proposal alive.
Watched closely by the nation and a skeptical California business community,
the Legislature’s Democratic leadership is crafting landmark legislation to
cut greenhouse-gas emissions over the next 14 years from factories, power
plants, construction sites, cement companies, and even dry-cleaning shops.
It is shaping up as a classic dispute between environmentalists and
business–a political fight that is all but certain to come to a head during
the last moments of this year’s legislative session. Environmentalists,
citing scientific evidence of global warming, believe the time is right for
the new legislation. And just for good measure, there’s a bit of tension
between the Senate and the Assembly Democratic leadership as well.
“Philosophically, there is strong agreement across the board in the
environmental community that it is going to take everything we’ve got to
curb global warming. That means we need to have a system, properly designed.
That’s where we’ve been going from the very first day,” said Karen Douglas
of Environmental Defense.
California has about 0.6 percent of the world’s population but emits about
1.4 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. The state emits about 6.2
percent of the nation’s emissions, although it accounts for about 12 percent
of the national population.
Some staffers and outside experts familiar with the issue believe it is the
most significant legislation this year in the Capitol, eclipsing even the
cable-telephone deregulation bill. “I think in some ways that this is much
more important, and will have a greater impact,” one legislative staffer
The latest plan comes two years after California ordered a 30 percent
reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles by 2016–a law that has
served as a model for the nation. “It’s not just in the U.S., it’s even in
the international community that this is one of the few things that the U.S.
is actually doing to deal with greenhouse gases. This [the latest proposal]
is the other half of that,” said Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, head of
the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
One part–the best known–is authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian N