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Governor signs bills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

LOS ANGELES — At a local ceremony Sept. 8, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law legislation that dramatically extends the state’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

At a ceremony at Vista Hermosa Natural Park just west of downtown Los Angeles, Brown signed two bills — SB 32 by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and AB 197 by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella.

SB 32 mandates that the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. That extends the goal set by the state in 2006, when legislation was approved requiring the state to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The state is on track to meet that goal, according to the governor’s office.

Brown has set an ultimate goal of cutting emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. SB 32 codifies an executive order Brown issued last year.

AB 197 calls on the state to focus its pollution-reduction efforts on “disadvantaged” communities and to increase public oversight of climate programs.

“Climate change is real, and knowing that, California is taking action,” Brown said. “SB 32 and AB 197 are far-reaching moves that continue California on its path of vast innovation and environmental resilience.”

The legislation was passed largely on party lines in Sacramento. Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said he supports the idea of cleaner air, but said SB 32 gives too much power to the California Air Resources Board, which has “repeatedly failed to produce basic performance reviews of its climate change programs.”

“The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office earlier this year issued a report stating that there were little to no reductions in greenhouse emissions despite billions of dollars having been spent from cap-and-trade revenue, which are dollars ultimately collected in the form of higher prices by consumers,” he said.

He said the legislative analyst also questioned the state’s methodology for calculating emission reductions. But Nielsen said Brown’s office has “turned a blind eye” in moving ahead with climate-change legislation, calling it a “shocking contradiction to the clear legal opinion provided by the Legislature’s own attorney.”

Critics have also questioned the viability of the cap-and-trade program, which caps the amount of greenhouse gas companies can produce — but allows for the purchase at auction of emission permits, and allows businesses to trade credits among themselves. That program is the subject of a legal challenge, but Brown has said he is confident the program will be upheld and improved.

Pavley said Brown’s action “sends a strong market signal — one that will give certainty to investors and innovators who are anxious to expand thriving clean businesses that have already created hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-South Gate, previously hailed the legislation as a way to clean the air while improving the economy.

“Harmful emissions are going down, and the economy is going up,” Rendon said. “That’s a success story — plain and simple. We’ve done so much on this front, and we can’t turn back now. That’s why extending our emission-reductions goals is so critical.

“With SB 32, we continue California’s leadership on climate change, we keep making sure our air gets cleaner and we ensure the economic and environmental benefits of our efforts to reach all California communities,” he said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also hailed the legislation.

“California is showing the world how we can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect vulnerable communities from the health and environmental impacts of carbon pollution and make meaningful investments in our clean energy future,” he said.