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New bill stirs up emission-cap controversy–again

A bill by Assembly Republican Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, seeks to codify a controversial executive order that upset many supporters of last year’s landmark greenhouse-gas emissions bill, AB 32.

The original language of AB 32 stated that the California Air Resources Board would have authority to determine whether to put into effect a system where companies that meet emissions standards can sell so-called “emissions credits” to those that don’t–and thus allow the latter to continue in operation.

Environmentalists feared the system–known as “market mechanisms” in government–might give polluters an end-run around AB 32. But the governor’s executive order made the system mandatory, and ordered that the mechanisms to be set up by a select advisory committee–and not CARB.

Houston’s AB 6 aims to enlist this part of the order into statute. According to Houston’s staff, the bill will ensure that market mechanisms are protected after Schwarzenegger leaves office.

Environmental groups have yet to make a formal statement on the proposed legislation, but the initial reaction is confusion and irritation. “It’s unnecessary,” said Devra Wang of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “I think that this issue was dealt with last year.”

“They put out a process for CARB to consider these issues last year and we should let that process work,” said Wang, who stressed that the issue already had been dealt with in the Legislature under the original AB 32 language.

While negotiations continue about the implementation of AB 32, Houston’s bill faces an uncertain future. At this point the bill has no known sponsors. Houston spokesman Keith Ochwat stated that it is still too early to be gathering supporters, especially with a lack of healthy staffers to do the legwork.

California Chamber of Commerce spokesman Vince Sollitto said that while it is early in the legislative session, many business groups would be inclined to support the bill.

“We have been a strong supporter of the governor’s executive order.


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