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Bid To Extend California's Climate Change Fight In Jeopardy

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

California leaders took victory laps at last week’s Democratic convention, touting the state’s role fighting climate change.

“We have solar, wind, zero-emission cars, energy efficiency, and yes, a price on carbon,” Gov. Jerry Brown told the crowd of delegates in Philadelphia.  “We're proving that even with the toughest climate laws in the country, our economy is growing faster than almost any nation in the world.“

But back at the state Capitol, the push to set a new greenhouse gas reduction goal appears to be stalling.

California’s current greenhouse gas reduction mandate is set to expire in 2020. So is the “cap and trade” program the state is using to achieve that goal. And while the Brown administration had been negotiating with the oil industry to address all those questions, those talks have stopped – at least for now.

Democratic Senate Leader Kevin de León is vowing that the Legislature will extend the mandate beyond 2020 one way or another – just maybe not before lawmakers adjourn on August 31st.

“There’s no question I’d like to get it done this month,“ De León told reporters Wednesday. “But I’m not gonna negotiate a bad deal just to get it done this month, if that’s what the pressures are.”

The oil industry and business groups say they support the state’s existing mandate, but an extension is premature.

“There’s no rush that says we have to get it done this year,“ says Rob Lapsley with the California Business Roundtable. “We have plenty of time before 2020. And we have to make sure that we get this right.”

Believe it or not, oil and business groups like “cap and trade” – at least, compared to alternatives like a carbon tax. So they want the program placed in state law – so the Legislature would decide, rather than the California Air Resources Board – how to reduce emissions.

They also argue that “cap and trade” carbon auction revenues should be shifted away from current uses like high-speed rail and affordable housing – top priorities of the governor and many Democratic lawmakers. “The money should go back to getting the greatest emission reductions possible,” Lapsley says.

All in all, it’s a thorny issue, with high stakes, and little time left to work it out this year.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio