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California court delays implementation of cap-and-trade program

The San Francisco Superior Court [official website] notified parties Monday of a ruling that acts to delay the implementation of a cap-and-trade program by requiring California's Air Resources Board (ARB) [official website] to further analyze alternatives. While the court's Friday decision does not officially preclude the ARB from adopting or implementing the program in the future, it could delay the process as the ARB will now have to conduct additional research [San Francisco Chronicle Report] on other available options and report back as to why the cap-and-trade program is superior as well as invite public comment on the issue. The suit against the ARB was brought by the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment [advocacy website], an environmental justice group that is representing other similar grassroots groups. Collectively, they argue that cap-and-trade programs, which establish limits on greenhouse gas emissions [JURIST news archive], are still inadequate because they allow major emitters to buy credits from others instead of actually reducing their own emissions, ultimately endangering communities often composed of poor minorities.

The proposed cap-and-trade program is a major part of Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32) [text, PDF; official backgrounder]. In December, the ARB approved measures [JURIST report] for the cap-and-trade program, which would provide incentives to companies and factories that decrease their greenhouse gas emissions. The provisions include a permit system in which companies are allotted a quota of greenhouse emissions. If a company does not use all of its quota, it can sell to a company that is going to exceed its quota. Companies that exceed their quota can purchase "offsets" from companies involved in activities that lessen greenhouse emissions, like forestry. The program is reportedly the first of this type in the country. Supporters of the bill in California say they felt compelled to enact AB 32 after Congress failed to approve greenhouse gas reduction legislation. They hope they other states will follow suit. AB 32 was first signed into law [JURIST report] by former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

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