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California Governor Signs Cap and Trade Bill While Schwarzenegger Blasts Trump

Two California governors -- one a Republican, the other a Democrat -- joined together Tuesday to celebrate the extension of one of the state's key global warming programs and slam the federal government for abandoning the climate fight.

By David R. Baker

Two California governors -- one a Republican, the other a Democrat -- joined together Tuesday to celebrate the extension of one of the state's key global warming programs and slam the federal government for abandoning the climate fight.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law an extension of the state's cap-and-trade program for curbing greenhouse gases, ensuring the program will keep running through 2030.

His Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, stood at his side, on the shore of San Francisco's Treasure Island. On the same spot in 2006, Schwarzenegger signed the landmark global warming law that authorized the cap-and-trade system and committed California to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

While only one Republican legislator sided with Schwarzenegger to pass that law, AB32, eight Republicans supported the new legislation, negotiated in months of closed-door talks involving Brown, legislative leaders, environmental advocates and business representatives. Republican support helped the bill, AB398, win a two-thirds, supermajority vote last week that should shield it from future legal challenges.

"It's a message that we have a functional government here in California where Democrats and Republicans work together," Schwarzenegger said at the signing ceremony. "It's a message for Washington, where they cannot work together. So I hope they learn from this."

Schwarzenegger accused conservative Republicans, with whom he often sparred as governor, of "lying to the people" on global warming. And following President Trump's move to withdraw the United States from the global climate agreement forged in Paris in late 2015, Schwarzenegger said the vote demonstrated that many Americans remain committed to fighting climate change.

"It shows the rest of the world that America did not drop out of the Paris agreement," Schwarzenegger said. "There's only one man that dropped out, but America did not drop out."

AB398 drew fire from many environmentalists, who considered it far too friendly to California's business community.

One hotly contested provision will block state and local air quality regulators from imposing new greenhouse gas limits on businesses or industrial facilities already participating in cap and trade. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District had been poised to slap firm limits on greenhouse gas emissions from the area's five local refineries.

But Brown on Tuesday argued that negotiating compromises with California businesses had been the right approach.

"You can't just say, 'We're not going to have oil anymore,'" he said. "You need an intelligent, planned transition."

California law calls for reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Cap and trade sets a declining annual limit on California's greenhouse gas emissions and forces businesses to buy a type of permit, called an allowance, for every metric ton of gases they emit. The number of allowances shrinks over time, curbing emissions.

The state's Legislative Analyst's Office had raised questions about whether the system had legal authorization to continue running past 2020. The new law erases that uncertainty.

There remains, however, uncertainty about how much cap and trade will contribute to the state's overall fight against global warming. Other policies -- including tougher mileage requirements for cars and a state requirement that utilities use more renewable power -- appear to be having a greater impact.

And in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, California's greenhouse gas emissions fell less than 1 percent. Since peaking in 2004, they have dropped about 10 percent.

"Those last inventory numbers were a warning sign," said Chris Busch, director of research at the Energy Innovation consulting firm. "I think cap and trade is running well. The question is how quickly will it get us on the trajectory we need for 2030?"

Brown urged other states to join California. The Canadian province of Quebec already participates in California's cap-and-trade system, and Ontario may join soon.

"We are a nation-state in a globalizing world, and we are having an impact," Brown said.

Brown lavished praise on Schwarzenegger during the ceremony, thanking him for his leadership on climate change.

"The fact that California can welcome an immigrant from Austria and make him governor -- that's another miracle," Brown said to laughter.

(c)2017 the San Francisco Chronicle

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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