News & Updates - SB 32: Too many important questions unanswered

SB 32: Too many important questions unanswered

By Rob Lapsley, The San Diego Union-Tribune, August 24, 2016

As California’s future climate policy takes center stage in the Legislature, there needs to be more focus on creating a business environment that will promote quality, middle-income jobs.

While California far exceeds the nation in climate change regulations, the current program lacks a comprehensive plan to create economywide jobs and ignores rising energy costs and the impact of those costs on families and businesses throughout the state. Our representatives have plenty of time to solve these troublesome issues. They need to reject the pressure tactics of the environmental activists and parties that financially benefit from the current program and work out the problems before signing on to 10 more years of uncertainty.

SB 32, pending legislation that would require additional, aggressive greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2030, failed passage last year because the bill did not resolve major issues and granted new unfettered authority to an unelected agency. Nothing has changed except a year has gone by and the bill still fails to address major issues. The bill ignores concerns raised by the nonpartisan legislative analyst and a number of California stakeholders who are already paying billions to support the existing programs. Now that the bill is back for a last-minute chance at the end of this two-year session, it should be stopped again.

Consumers and businesses already pay billions of dollars in higher energy and consumer prices. The higher energy costs disproportionately impact people in the inland part of the San Diego region, while the coastal communities have seen their bills remain largely the same or reduced by subsidized solar. This is hardly a model that the Legislature should be endorsing, and not a model any other state would be anxious to follow.

We’ve had 10 years of experience since AB 32 passed in 2006 and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has yet to effectively demonstrate that current GHG emissions have been achieved in a cost-effective manner. Even California’s Department of Finance stated that the ARB has failed to show cost-effective reductions through credible metrics. Additionally, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has also raised questions about the effectiveness of the current cap and yrade revenue spending. We have mechanisms to audit and measure the effectiveness of programs, and we need to use these tools to determine if people in the San Diego region and the state are benefiting from the program.

Despite statewide concerns over ARB’s authority over existing climate programs, SB 32 would allow the California Legislature to hand over their responsibility to an unelected board and an unaccountable bureaucracy that will have direct authority over the future of the state’s economy, jobs and consumer costs. Decisions about San Diego’s land use and transportation policies will be delegated to the ARB without any requirement that the agency seek the input of the elected representatives or the impacted communities.

SB 32 also ignores the elephant in the room — the legality of the existing program. SB 32 does not remove the legal uncertainties relating to cap and trade functioning as a tax while it collects billions of dollars from California businesses and taxpayers. The litigation is fostering market uncertainty and adding risks to businesses that need a predictable program to make investment, hiring and other decisions.

California leadership on climate change will be threatened by bills like SB 32 that are not based on solid data on costs and effectiveness, do not resolve litigation and that lack full participation and accountability by San Diego’s elected officials. If this debate is truly about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, then Californians deserve a real policy discussion that will address the issues raised by the experts.

Let’s not rush to meet an artificial deadline. The Legislature needs to get it right and show other states that California has a model for effective and affordable climate change policy that supports both the environment and the economy.

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