One California climate bill passed, another shelved as legislative year ends

Published 20:16 on September 11, 2015  /  Last updated at 09:55 on September 16, 2015  /  Americas, US  /  No Comments

California lawmakers late on Friday passed a bill to cut the state's energy use and boost renewables, while another that would have mandated a deep reduction in its GHG emissions has been shelved as the legislature adjourned for the year.

(Updates with passage of SB 350)

California lawmakers late on Friday passed a bill to cut the state’s energy use and boost renewables, while another that would have mandated a deep reduction in its GHG emissions has been shelved as the legislature adjourned for the year.

The California Assembly passed SB 350, which amongst other things calls for 50% of the state’s power supply to come from renewables and for a doubling of energy efficiency in buildings by 2030, after the bill’s Democrat sponsors earlier in the week succumbed to fierce pressure from industry and some colleagues and stripped out an amendment that would have required that gasoline consumption be halved over the same timeline.

The law was approved by a vote of 52 to 26 with 2 abstentions in the state legislature’s final day of the 2014/15 session.

However, sponsors of bill SB 32, which aimed to extend the CO2 limits under the state’s 2006 AB 32 bill and called for output to be cut by 40% by 2030 and by 80% by 2050 below 1990 levels, decided late on Thursday to withdraw the legislation, and will instead propose it during the next legislative session, said Senator Fran Pavley, one of the bill’s backers.

“Unfortunately, the state Assembly and the administration were not supportive, for now, and we could not pass this important proposal,” said Pavley in a statement released Thursday.

With 27 legislative co-authors, SB 32 was easily approved by the state Senate earlier this year and enjoyed broad support from local governments and environmental and social justice organizations throughout the state.

But California’s Assembly rejected the bill earlier this week on a vote of 30 to 35 with 15 legislators abstaining – mainly Democrats.

While most Republicans in the legislature opposed SB 32, the bill fell when the Assembly’s Democratic leadership was unable to rally enough votes to guarantee passage despite having a two-thirds majority in the house.

A spokesman for California Governor Jerry Brown told the Sacramento Bee that the administration supported SB 32 as it was originally proposed, but objected to amendments to curtail authority of the California Air Resources Board.

Those amendments, he said, “could have weakened the state’s existing ability to fight climate change. We can’t trade what is already being done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to get a new bill.”

The twin bills were conceived to codify executive orders issued by Brown, but the setbacks represent a symbolic setback for the governor, who hoped the new laws would be a centrepiece in his efforts to make California a leader in international efforts to reduce emissions ahead of UN climate talks this winter.

By Robert Mullin and Mike Szabo – news@carbon-pulse.com

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