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Governor Locks State Into Expensive Climate Mandates

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On Wednesday October 7, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 350 (Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles). However, it was a less sweeping greenhouse gas reduction measure than Brown and Assembly and Senate leadership originally proposed. Moderate Democrats in the Assembly, some already subject to AB 32 Cap-and-Trade regulation and backed by California businesses and industries, were able to strip the petroleum goal from the legislation before its passage. 

However, the bill remains significant as the new regulation will require California by 2030 to increase from one third to 50 percent the proportion of electricity the state derives from wind, solar and other renewable sources. It also requires the state to double the energy efficiency of buildings over the next 15 years.

There are many outstanding questions that have yet to be answered about exactly how California is expected to meet the new goals and fulfill the new requirements. For example, there has been no clear analysis of the massive infrastructure investments that will be required to transition the energy sector. Additionally, experts acknowledge that the technology simply does not exist at the level or scale required to meet the goals in the time frames outlined. 

Nor are there any provisions addressing regulatory oversight. The bill authors themselves admitted that the California Air Resources Board has not been altogether responsive to the Legislature or to the people and businesses that fund the agency and its programs.
California currently leads the nation in emission reductions, and that is a major achievement. But that achievement has come at a staggering amount of regulatory enactment. Currently, there are more than 65 existing climate change programs—many possibly overlapping or working at counter purposes to other agency regulations—to which California businesses, industry and residents must adhere.  

With or without SB 350, the current environmental goals of the state will result in electricity and fuel costs continuing to increase. Yet somehow in the nine years since AB 32 passed, the state has yet to provide a rigorous economic analysis as promised in the original bill. By signing SB 350, even this cut back version, Governor Brown has locked California into meeting far-flung regulatory mandates unsupported by any significant economic studies or data. 

Written by John Larrea, California League of Food Processors Government Affairs Director 

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