For most of the year, tracking the inner workings of the California Legislature can be a grueling effort suitable only for the most die-hard policy wonks. But at the end of session, things can move and change so fast that you need a neck brace. This is especially true when "bill packages" related to big-ticket topics attempt to move together or crisscross legislative houses as a unit. The 2015 legislative year was no different. Immediately after Governor Brown's State of the State address, where he announced big climate change goals, 2015 shaped up to be bigger than 2006 when the granddaddy of all climate bills, AB 32, was passed and signed, and subsequently altered the course for a major world economy. Throughout the legislative session, a variety of big bills publicly marched toward the Governor's desk. But… with two days remaining in the session, things shifted dramatically. The seismic change can be seen in these two contrasting headlines posted less than 24 hours apart over the final three days of the session:
Within 24 hours, the two centerpiece bills of a robust Senate-sponsored climate package had either been shelved or substantially pared down, taking with it a billion dollars of an already-delayed spending plan for Cap and Trade auction proceeds. First up was SB 350 (De Leon). The Senate leader's bill would have required a 50% RPS, doubling of building energy efficiency standards and a 50% reduction in petroleum usage in California motor vehicles. It was this last provision that was blamed for the bill's inability to keep moving according to Governor Brown in a spirited midday press conference on the 9th. SB 350 was then subsequently amended to remove the petroleum piece. Soon after, it became known around the Capitol that the larger Cap and Trade spending plan delayed from the June budget negotiations was also not going to be voted upon this year (though some minor appropriations were pushed through). By noon on the 10th, SB 32 (Pavley) was officially declared a "two-year bill," would not get a vote in 2015, and was amended to remove the more aggressive longer-term 2050 targets. SB 32 would have established in law both 2030 and 2050 GHG reduction targets for California, essentially extending the California Air Resources Board's AB 32 GHG authority by 30 years. These three pieces of legislation were seen as a three-legged entity, and once SB 350 was impacted, the other two were taken down as well. In a state known for progressive environmental legislation, it really was a stunning turn of events over a very short time frame.
Though the press coverage of these events tended to frame the issues as "setbacks" or "losses" in terms of climate change policy, it should be noted that half of the Senate's climate package (SBs 9, 64, 189, 246, 379 and 758) is headed to the Governor's desk. When you include AB 1288, the Assembly Speaker's bill to add two Environmental Justice members to CARB's Board, and the remaining provisions of SB 350—a doubling of energy efficiency targets for a state that has led in this area for 30 years and a renewable electricity standard that is by far the most significant in the country—the totality of the session takes on a different look. But without the shimmer of the big-ticket items, there certainly was less sparkle on the finished products.
During the press conference announcing SB 350's fate, Governor Brown vowed to use executive authority to keep the momentum up. And true to his word, before the Legislature could even gavel their session over, CARB posted a notice that they would kick-start the next phase of climate change planning efforts with the "2030 Scoping Plan." A public workshop is now scheduled for October 1 in Sacramento.
According to the notice:
"The meeting will build on the recent Governor's Climate Change Pillars symposia, to seek public input on the strategies for achieving the reduction mandate. The 2030 Scoping Plan will also help expand on the post-2020 GHG reductions outlined in the First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan."
This workshop will begin another busy planning and regulatory cycle for California climate change activities, once again led by CARB. This new planning cycle is reminiscent of the 2007-2011 adoptions following the passage of AB 32. Based on public statements and information, the following schedule is enlightening, highly probable but subject to change:
- Start 2030 Scoping Plan Update
- Finalize 2nd three-year Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) Investment Plan—Budget Years '16-'17 to '18-'19
- Adopt GGRF Administrative Guidance Document—Agency Oversight
- Readopt LCFS Regulation on September 24/25—Effective January 1, 2016
- Begin 111(d) State Implementation Plan (SIP) development and public stakeholder process (Oct. 2 workshop)
- Release next draft of Oil/Gas Methane Regulation
- Governor Brown to release proposed GGRF Budget—Jan. 2016
- Mobile Source Strategy released for South Coast Ozone SIP
- Begin Cap and Trade and MRR Regulation amendment public stakeholder process
- Release Draft 111(d) SIP
- Finalize/Adopt Oil/Gas Methane Regulation
- Finalize Short-Lived Climate Pollutant (SLCP) Plan—Methane, Black Carbon and F-gases
- Finalize 2030 Scoping Plan Draft
- Finalize 111(d) SIP (Sept.)
- Reopen LCFS to add verification components
- Release Draft Amended Cap and Trade Regulation
- Continue CT stakeholder process
- Finalize/Adopt Amended CT Regulation (prior to 3rd Compliance Period allowance allocation)
- Release "Program Review" for LCFS Regulation—Nonregulatory
- Regulatory Program Review of LCFS
- 111(d) SIP due to EPA
Passage of SB 350 and SB 32 would have changed the dynamics and veracity of this schedule. And it remains to be seen (i) how all of this will play out, (ii) whether SB 32 or similar bill will pass anytime soon, and/or (iii) what will happen in the coming months in D.C., the courts, or at United Nations Paris negotiations, but it is almost a certainty that we won't see 24 more fascinating hours in a state legislative body anytime soon...well, at least not until next year at the earliest.