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California's Cap-and-Trade Program Upheld in Court

Energy
California's Cap-and-Trade Program Upheld in Court

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The Sacramento Superior Court upheld California's cap-and-trade program just five days before the fifth scheduled carbon auction.

The California Chamber of Commerce and Pacific Legal Foundation filed lawsuits claiming the one-year-old program, which auctions off the right to emit greenhouse gases, was unconstitutional. The court sided with the state, which countered that auctioning carbon permits holds polluters accountable for making an adverse impact on the climate.

"Today's decision marks another win for the Golden State’s clean energy economy and the communities across California hit hardest by climate pollution," said Erica Morehouse, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund. "The court sent a strong signal today, thoroughly affirming California’s innovative climate protection program—including the vital safeguards to ensure that polluters are held accountable for their harmful emissions."

Last year, the California Chamber of Commerce filed its lawsuit the day before the first auction, arguing that carbon-emissions permits amount to unconstitutional taxes. The chamber and the Pacific Legal Foundation believe the auction process was meant to penalize the state's biggest  industries because Assembly Bill (AB) 32 didn’t receive two-thirds supermajority votes when the state Legislature enacted the law seven years ago, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The court agreed with the two groups, whose lawsuits added that AB 32 didn’t explicitly authorize the state to auction carbon credits. Still, the argument wasn't compelling enough in the court's eyes.

"Although AB 32 does not explicitly authorize the sale of allowances, it specifically delegates to [the Air Resources Board] the discretion to adopt a cap-and-trade program and to 'design' a system of distribution of emissions allowances," according to the court's decision. "The court does not find [the] petitioners' arguments persuasive."

 To date, the first four auctions have raised $395 million for the state.

"The court affirmed today what the overwhelming majority of Californians want—to move forward with clean energy solutions that help reduce pollution and create opportunities for clean energy innovation," said Alex Jackson, a Natural Resources Defense Council attorney. "The decision clears the way for California to continue pursuing the critical goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act."

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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