A legislative effort to extend California’s climate change policies past 2020 is proving more difficult than policymakers had bargained for.

A top aide to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said yesterday that he is committed to cementing the state’s climate goals in law or by voter approval but that it might not happen until 2018.

“Let’s be clear: We are going to extend our climate goals and cap-and-trade program—one way or another,” Nancy McFadden, Brown’s executive secretary, said in a statement on Twitter. “The governor will continue working with the Legislature to get this done this year, next year or on the ballot in 2018.”

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D) sought Tuesday to back away from expectations that lawmakers would pass 2030 emissions targets this year in the waning days of the state’s legislative session. Negotiations over S.B. 32 also floundered last year; the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Fran Pavley (D), is termed out this year (ClimateWire, Aug. 4).

McFadden referenced negotiations with oil companies as a reason to avoid rushing into a legislative compromise. The state’s low-carbon fuel standard, which requires producers to reduce the carbon content of their fuels by 10 percent by 2020, has reportedly been a bargaining chip.

“[W]e can’t buy into the fallacy that a vote on any single measure over the next 27 days will make or break our climate agenda,” she said. “We will not play into the hands of oil companies by telegraphing our strategy or settle for measures that weaken, undermine or diminish our world-leading climate programs.”

Representatives of the state’s main oil industry organization, the Western States Petroleum Association, did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

State regulators have been arguing that Brown’s executive order setting a 2030 emissions target of 40 percent below 1990 levels provides enough authority for them to keep writing regulations for the post-2020 period. But McFadden’s statement seems to be a tacit acknowledgment that more is needed.

The California Air Resources Board released a draft blueprint Tuesday for meeting federal greenhouse gas standards through 2031 under U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan that envisions using cap and trade as the main tool (ClimateWire, Aug. 3).

McFadden stressed commitment to the state’s cap-and-trade system, which is suffering from low demand amid worries that it might not continue past 2020. Legal uncertainty surrounds the program. Lawmakers have balked at the idea of including explicit authorization for cap and trade in S.B. 32 or obtaining a two-thirds majority vote, which would insulate the program from court challenges under Proposition 26. The 2010 ballot initiative requires a supermajority approval to raise taxes or fees, and a case challenging the current program for being an illegal tax is still awaiting judgment.

Nichols: ‘Bet on 2030’

Also yesterday, Brown registered a ballot measure finance committee, “Californians for a Clean Environment,” with the California secretary of state.

A ballot campaign would circumvent the need to go through the Legislature, which appears more resistant to greenhouse gas regulations than the public. A poll released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 68 percent of respondents said they supported extending the state’s emissions targets to 2030, while 69 percent said they backed A.B. 32, the 2006 law that set an initial target of 1990 greenhouse gas levels by 2020 (ClimateWire, July 28).

ARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols also weighed in with a vote of confidence for continuing existing programs.

“Bet on 2030,” she said on Twitter. “It’s certain: low carbon fuels, ZEVs [zero-emission vehicles], renewable electricity, cap and trade are all in CA’s future.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) yesterday echoed de León’s comments. “The world needs California’s continued leadership to advance the fight against climate change, so it is vital that the solutions we put forward are as strong and as solid as possible,” he said.

“As Senate President pro Tem de León noted yesterday and the governor’s office reiterated today,” Rendon said, “we are committed to extending California’s emission targets beyond 2020, and we will keep working on this until it’s right.”

Low-income coalition makes bid for cap-and-trade dollars

Meanwhile, a group representing low-income residents in California yesterday petitioned utility regulators to set aside $1 billion from cap-and-trade revenues to fund solar projects that would benefit those people.

A coalition that includes the California Housing Partnership, California Environmental Justice Alliance, Brightline Defense Project, Natural Resources Defense Council and National Housing Law Project asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to consider the request.

A.B. 693 last year authorized the use of some of the cap-and-trade auction revenues that go back to utilities to fund solar energy systems on affordable multifamily rental properties in California.

The proposal requests that the CPUC adopt an energy strategy combining energy efficiency, solar photovoltaics and energy storage “to reduce energy use, peak load demands, and costs, and advance utility efforts to transition to a smarter energy grid.” It further asks for special efforts to target installations in disadvantaged communities and to provide job opportunities in low-income and disadvantaged communities.

“This is our opportunity to make clean energy a reality for all Californians,” said Matt Schwartz, president and CEO of the California Housing Partnership, in a statement. “This plan will ensure low-income renters—which comprise a huge percentage of California’s population—are able to enjoy the benefits of improved energy efficiency and solar energy.”

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500