California Air Board Cracks Down on Emissions

LCT Staff
Posted on September 12, 2007

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently proposed several new measures designed to cut the state's global warming emissions within the next two-and-a-half years.

The proposals include retrofitting trucks, reducing pollution in computer manufacturing, and requiring car owners to keep their tires properly inflated. Altogether, they would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2.8 million metric tons a year, an early dent in the 174 million metric tons that must be slashed by the year 2020.

"None of these are huge measures," board Chairman Mary Nichols said in an interview. "But added together, they are quite significant… Every single action we take — government, businesses, municipalities, and individuals alike — makes a difference toward ultimately cooling our planet."

California's landmark global warming law requires that emissions be reduced to 1990 levels over the next 13 years, a challenge that will require massive changes in many industries, including automotive and electrical power.

Nichols pledged to add to the three measures adopted by the board in June: a low-carbon fuel standard, improvements in auto air-conditioner maintenance and methane capture from landfills.

"The board was under attack from many quarters for not being serious about doing everything it could to capture the potential for early emissions reductions," said Nichols, who met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to discuss the new proposals. "Now we have a much more legitimate down payment on what needs to be done."

In total, six new measures are to be proposed today, with a public hearing to be held Sept. 17, 2007 and a final board vote scheduled for Oct. 25, 2007.

So far, counting other agency initiatives — including a ban on utilities' purchase of electricity from out-of-state coal-fired plants — the state is on track to reduce greenhouse gases by more than 36 tons a year by 2020, more than a fifth of the total required under the law.

But Nichols noted that critical issues have yet to be resolved, including the massive contribution of California vehicles to global warming emissions. Automobile companies have filed suit against California's 2002 law, which would require them to cut carbon dioxide from tailpipes by 30%. And the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to issue a waiver allowing California and other states to regulate vehicular greenhouse gases.

Automobile rules, as well as new restrictions on utilities, must be part of the final plan if the state is to reach its 2020 goals, Nichols said.

The air board is also looking at how to design a system for industries to meet greenhouse gas caps by trading the right to pollute: Companies facing expensive cleanups could buy emissions permits from firms that can limit their pollution more cheaply.

A similar cap-and-trade system is being debated in Congress while other states are looking to California for ideas.

"California was first out of the box to adopt a mandatory cap" on pollution that causes global warming, Nichols said. "Now we have made significant progress in fleshing out what's available to be capped quickly; and other states, which are eager to get involved, have something to look at."

Environmentalists particularly praised the proposals that would reduce global warming pollution while also cutting toxics and improving air quality. But they noted that tough political battles loom — on cement industry rules, for example — and on a proposal to change the paint used on vehicles, which absorbs heat and boosts air-conditioning needs.

SOURCE: Los Angeles Times

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