What the approved cap-and-trade package could mean to Central Valley residents

Legislation approved Monday by the state lawmakers will extend the cap-and-trade program to combat global warming, despite concerns it could raise gasoline prices.

A companion bill, AB 617, will require more localized monitoring of air pollution and calls for the state Air Resources Board to establish minimum standards in 2018 for reducing toxic air contaminants in San Joaquin Valley communities.

Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, said a key battle will occur in the next few weeks as the Legislature approves the state budget and allocates cap-and-trade funding for reducing emissions in the Valley and other high-pollution areas such as Southern California.

The district’s eight-county region needs funding to cut emissions from mobile sources including diesel trucks, buses and farm equipment, Sadredin said.

The district is hoping for $200 million to $400 million for helping owners to buy vehicles with cleaner-burning engines. “We need about $1 billion a year to replace 280,000 trucks,” Sadredin said. “The newer trucks are 90 percent cleaner.”

California’s cap-and-trade program is extended until 2030 in a continued effort to bring down carbon dioxide emissions from major industries. The state hopes to reduce the emissions to the 1990 level by 2020 and use the extension of cap-and-trade to help cut emissions another 40 percent by 2030.

Under the California system, carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for rising global temperatures, are capped and companies are required to buy permits for the greenhouse gases they emit. Companies can trade for more capacity through a state auction, but the costs are intended to create incentives for reducing their carbon footprint.

To win the necessary votes, the legislation was crafted so that the local air districts and the state are not duplicating efforts in regulating CO2 emissions from large polluters.

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, cited rising fuel costs in opposing renewal of the cap-and-trade program. He cited one estimate of a $1-per-gallon increase in gasoline prices tied to renewal of cap and trade, but estimates have varied.

Since the California Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2006, “Sacramento has failed to make good on promises to invest in disadvantaged communities,” Gray said in a statement. “Instead, cap and trade has served as a tax on the working families of Merced, Ceres, Los Banos and other communities like them. It has increased the price of gasoline and energy which has a disproportionate impact on people living in inland California.”

Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, was the only Republican to support the measure in Monday’s Senate vote. Berryhill said he decided to break with fellow Republicans after being assured a manufacturers’ tax credit applied to the agricultural industry.

The California Farm Bureau Federation, Agricultural Council of California and other groups representing the farming industry supported the bill.

Sadredin said part of the legislative package will require community monitoring of local sources of pollution. Additional monitors could be installed in Modesto to get a better read on sources of pollution such as the Gallo glass plant. The Air Resources Board will analyze the data and set minimum standards for local air districts to implement measures to reduce the harmful pollutants.

Kevin Hamilton, executive director of the Central California Asthma Collaborative in Fresno, said the group favors some measures in AB 617, but had hoped the bill would eliminate the emission reduction credit system. For years, the system has allowed companies to use credits on old equipment to meet requirements, Hamilton said.

“We really wanted this system fixed and saw this bill as an opportunity to do that,” Hamilton said. “Apparently, you can buy these credits and use them forever.”

The respiratory therapist, who previously worked in health clinics, said for decades he saw asthma patients who suffered from effects of dirty air, regardless of their income or ethnicity. “They were sick at higher rates than we saw in other areas of the country,” Hamilton said.

Right now, pollution monitors are not close enough to facilities putting nitrogen oxide, particles and other contaminants into the air. “In places north and south of Fresno, we don’t know what the pollution looks like in those communities,” Hamilton said.

More information could allow the air district to address the issues and reduce residents’ exposure to those pollutants.

The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16