California regulation forbids utilities from buying ‘dirty’ electricity News
California regulation forbids utilities from buying ‘dirty’ electricity

[JURIST] The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) [official website] has unanimously approved a regulation that will prohibit utilities from buying electricity produced by power plants whose emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) [EPA backgrounder] exceed the state's standards. The rule [CPUC materials], which the four-member commission discussed and voted on [recorded video] Thursday, forbids California utilities from making "new long-term commitments" – including new construction, "major investments" in existing plants and contracts lasting five years or longer – to facilities that emit more than 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour. Most gas-fired power plants meet that standard, while most coal-burning plants do not. Coal-fired plants outside California now supply about 20 percent of the state's electricity. In a press release [text], PUC President Michael R. Peevey said the commission "has long anticipated capping greenhouse gas emissions in order to ensure that load-serving entities make long-term commitments to energy resources that have GHG emissions profiles that are at least as clean as California's existing portfolio." The chief executive of one large utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. [corporate website], likewise praised the "aggressive and pragmatic policy" [press release] as an "essential step to addressing climate change."

Scientific research has shown that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contribute to global warming [EPA climate change materials]. California's regulation is intended to encourage the growth of alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power, that produce less pollution. The rule, which is scheduled to be implemented on Feb. 1, was adopted pursuant to an emissions-control bill [legislative materials; law firm backgrounder] passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [press release] last year. AP has more. The Los Angeles Times has local coverage.

Also this week, the Los Angeles Times reported [text] that 221 companies had registered their emissions levels with the voluntary California Climate Action Registry [website] as of last month. Under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 [text], also signed by Schwarzenegger last year [JURIST report], companies that joined the registry before Jan. 1 could earn "early action" credits that they could then sell to companies having trouble meeting strict new emissions standards.

This report was prepared in partnership with the Pittsburgh Journal of Environmental and Public Health Law.