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California Lawmakers Pass New Climate Change Bills

Two bills that have the oil and natural gas industry uneasy (SB 32 and AB 197) were passed by California's legislature on Wednesday, and Gov. Jerry Brown indicated he would sign both.

A final concurrence on SB 32 by the state Senate was provided late Wednesday.

SB 32 would require greenhouse gas emissions to be slashed 40% under 1990 levels by 2030, and AB 197 will provide the mechanisms to make sure the goals of the legislation are met, according to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. AB 197 was developed with the backing of lawmakers who would like more legislative oversight and control of the California Air Resources Board, which has been the lead state agency on climate change issues for more than a decade.

Officials in the Obama administration and Gov. Brown's office reportedly had been mounting pressure on Assembly members to pass the controversial bills, which Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) President Catherine Reheis-Boyd labeled as "not a reason to celebrate." The California Independent Petroleum Association also is opposing the bills.

But Alex Jackson, the legal director at the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) California climate project, hailed SB 32 for its "ambitious climate change limits.” Jackson also lauded Gov. Brown for his strong support.

"[On Monday], big oil bought a full-page ad in the capital city's newspaper of record to halt action on climate [but on Tuesday] the Assembly Speaker, most Democrats and one brave Republican passed SB 32, rejecting the brazen deception of the oil lobby and their Trump-inspired allies who deny science and fight every reasonable effort to curb global warming," Brown said.

Brown said that he will sign SB 32 and AB 197, which the Senate passed on Tuesday prior to Wednesday's final Assembly vote. The two bills are "double-joined," so unless they both get out of the state legislature, neither will get to the governor.

Nicole Lederer, chairman of the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs, said California lawmakers "just doubled down on one of the strongest, most innovative climate policies in the world."

Characterizing the two bills as giving "blank check authority" to state bureaucracy, Reheis-Boyd said the legislation "puts accessible and reliable energy at risk," calling the passage of SB 32 "a setback for California's global leadership on climate change."

A government affairs manager for one of the major private-sector utilities told NGI that his combination utility did not have a position on SB 32, but that it does support California's multi-billion-dollar cap/trade program that is not explicitly continued in the current bill's language. "We had a few other issues that we would have preferred to have addressed in the statute, but that didn't happen," he said.

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