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Sleight of hand: Greenhouse-gas law not quite what it seems

California’s first-in-the-nation law to curb greenhouse-gas emissions is developing behind the scenes differently than the Schwarzenegger administration’s public pronouncements would suggest, with as much emphasis given to corporate economics as to scrubbing the air.

That focus was not contained in the original law that ordered cuts in carbon emissions–a law that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed last year to international acclaim.

Rather, it was part of the executive order he signed three weeks later that rearranged the chain of command over emission regulation; ordered a new, high-level advisory panel to develop a marketing scheme in which the polluters themselves determine emission reductions, and at least partly usurped the authority of the Air Resources Board. It dismantled key pieces of the very law he touted and, critics say, reneged on critical elements reached through lengthy negotiations by requiring the business-friendly market system to be set up along with the ARB regulations.

The business community, fearful that new regulations could disrupt the economy and cost jobs, support the governor’s order.

“This bill was sold to California as a way to help the environment and help the economy. The best chance of achieving both of those goals is through the use of market mechanisms, as outlined in the governor’s executive order, and not in the command-and-control mandates contained in some legislative proposals,” said Vince Sollitto, spokesperson for the California Chamber of Commerce.

But environmentalists are critical, and so is Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill, who has targeted areas in which the order conflicts with state law. She noted the administration’s assumption that pro-business “cap-and-trade” market is the best way to regulate greenhouse gases.

“However, when the administration was asked what evaluation led it to assume the inclusion of market-based measures


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