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California Legislature Makes Final Push on Major Energy Bill

Facing adjournment the end of this week (Sept. 11), California lawmakers continued on Tuesday to debate the details of a comprehensive energy bill (SB 350) designed to support Gov. Jerry Brown's climate change response (see Daily GPI, April 30) including cutting the use of petroleum products in transportation in half by 2030 as the industry grapples with calls for it to radically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Industry representatives are still against the measure, which passed the Senate earlier and now is being vigorously debated in the lower house Assembly where there are more skeptics. While representatives for some of the energy utilities told NGI they can now support SB 350, a spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) on Tuesday said nothing had changed, although negotiations were ongoing by all sides in the debate.

Gov. Brown earlier in the year issued an executive order calling for a reduction in GHG emissions of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, noting that the move was aimed at aligning California with "leading international governments" in advance of the United Nations climate talks in Paris in December and in keeping with a European Union emissions reduction target set for 2030.

Meanwhile, California's legislature led by the Senate has been considering setting various climate-related goals for 2030, calling for up to a 50% cut in petroleum use, doubling efficiency standards for buildings, and raising the renewable portfolio standard to 50% (see Daily GPISept. 4).

There are indications that some compromises are coming on the 50% petroleum cut and additional environmental regulations by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has been the lead agency for implementing California's aggressive approach to climate change dating back to a 2006 law (AB 32). Critics in the oil/gas industry would like to see the added CARB regulatory powers in SB 350 modified.

Changes reportedly discussed in Sacramento Tuesday include putting new limits on environmental regulators such as CARB and changing the 50% petroleum cut to a reduction in GHG emissions from the transportation sector, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

A related bill, SB 32, to put into law Brown's executive order for cutting GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2030 failed in the state Assembly Tuesday. Ultimately, SB 32's fate will be tied to SB 350, according to local news reports in Sacramento.

An Assembly member told the Sacramento Bee that his colleagues opposed to SB 350 and SB 32 are holding back awaiting further changes in both bills before they weigh in on a final vote, probably right up until midnight on Friday.

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