New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual

On January 12, California Assemblymembers Autumn R. Burke, Jim Cooper, Evan Low, and Blanca Rubio introduced legislation, AB 151, to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program beyond 2020.

The sponsors of Assembly Bill 151 said the legislation affirms the State’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 “in the most technologically feasible and cost effective way by using a market based mechanism: cap-and-trade.”

“Cap-and-trade is an important tool to help disadvantaged communities participate in efforts to improve air quality,” said Assemblymember Cooper. “AB 151 will help ensure California continues to invest cap-and-trade revenues in areas of the state with the greatest need.”

But Gary Graham Hughes, Senior California Advocacy Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said “thorough academic review of the market-based compliance mechanism,” as implemented in California so far, shows that Cap-and-Trade does not work for the lower-income communities and communities of color that disproportionately live closest to polluting facilities.

Many environmental justice and indigenous organizations oppose cap-and-trade, calling it “carbon trading” or “pollution trading,” because of the tremendous adverse impacts the program has on indigenous communities and the environment throughout the world.

“Cap-and-Trade is a pollution trading scheme in which so-called greenhouse gas emissions ‘reductions’ rely extensively on scientifically dubious out-of-state ‘offset’ projects, while real emissions at many of the state’s largest industrial facilities continue to rise,” Hughes said.

As Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said at a protest against Governor Jerry Brown’s environmental policies, including carbon trading and REDD, in October 2013:

“Governor Brown is moving ahead with a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. This policy privatizes the air we breathe. Commodifies the clouds. Buy and sells the atmosphere. Corrupts the Sacred.”

In response to fossil fuel industry support of legislation providing an extension of the Cap-and-Trade Program, Hughes said, “Proposing legislation to extend the Cap-and-Trade Program ignores climate science as well as the needs of affected communities throughout California for climate policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the source. Pollution trading is a false solution to the global climate crisis.”

Hughes noted that the press release from California Assembly Democrats claiming the bill “answers the call to extend cap-and-trade” fails to include an important fact: the “call” that Assembly Democrats and Governor Brown are answering “is the one made by the fossil fuel industry to use cap-and-trade to continue their business-as-usual carbon pollution. In this age of climate science denial, Californians need climate change mitigation policy rooted in science and that provides environmental justice for the communities most affected by industrial pollution.”

Hughes’ contention that “the call” the Assembly Democrats and Jerry Brown are answering is the one made by Big Oil to use cap-and-trade to continue “business as usual” is illustrated by the statement issued on January 10, 2017 by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA).

In her statement, Reheis-Boyd makes it clear that the oil industry that she represents supports the continuation of California’s cap-and-trade-program, as proposed by Governor Jerry Brown in his 2017-2018 budget, providing that it “protects” the economy and “California families, consumers and businesses.”

Reheis Boyd says a “well-designed cap-and-trade program is the prudent approach to meeting the state’s climate change targets.” Reheis-Boyd states:

“WSPA and its member companies believe focusing on a market mechanism to achieve California’s climate goals is the prudent approach. In 2016, California adopted one of the most stringent GHG reduction targets in the world. Achieving this target will be difficult and costly. Achieving the reductions through a well-designed cap-and-trade program will minimize those costs. Where today’s proposal falls short is that it simply layers the cap-and-trade program on top of costly and counter-productive command-and-control measures, disregarding the increasingly important role of cost containment.

WSPA looks forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature on a climate program that works towards achieving California’s climate goals while protecting the economy and California families, consumers and businesses.”

In his state budget released on January 10, Jerry Brown proposed the introduction of two-thirds urgency legislation in the State Legislature to continue the cap-and-trade program. AB 151 is the response to Brown’s request.

At the end of his keynote address at the World Climate Summit in Paris on December 8, 2015, Indigenous leaders from the Indigenous Environmental Network, Idle No More, SF Bay Area, and other organizations heckled Governor Jerry Brown, challenging him on his support of controversial carbon trading polices that they say represent “a new form of colonialism” that could potentially cause genocide.

Brown is the Governor of a state that the mainstream media often portrays as a “green leader,” but is in fact the third biggest oil producer in the nation. In a classic example of how Big Oil has captured the regulatory apparatus in California, WSPA President Reheis-Boyd chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012, as well as serving on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012.

These “marine protected areas” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering. While Reheis-Boyd served on these panels, her industry was fracking the same ocean waters that she and her “marine guardian” colleagues were tasked to “protect.”

WSPA is the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in the West and Sacramento — and has spent more than other lobbying organization in Sacramento in recent years to exert control over the Governor’s Office, regulatory agencies and State Legislature.

From January 1, 2009 to November 8, 2016, the oil industry spent $112,371,214 on lobbying expenses in California, according to a new report, “The Chevron Way: Polluting California and Degrading Democracy.” The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Sydney Office produced the report, in collaboration with a coalition of conservation, consumer and environmental justice groups.

The Western States Petroleum Association led the oil industry lobbying expenses with $49,491,104 during this period, followed by Chevron with $24,035,901 and Phillips 66 with $4,821,144.

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher