By SAMANTHA YOUNG, Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO - California would become the first state to impose a limit on all greenhouse gas emissions, including those from industrial plants, under a landmark deal reached Wednesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative Democrats.
The agreement marks a clear break with the Bush administration and puts California on a path to reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by an estimated 25 percent by 2020.
The bill still needs lawmakers' approval, but that appears likely, given that Democrats control the Legislature.
It gives Schwarzenegger a key environmental victory as he seeks re-election this fall.
"We can now move forward with developing a market-based system that makes California a world leader in the effort to reduce carbon emissions," the governor said in a statement.
The bill would require the state's major industries — such as utility plants, oil and gas refineries, and cement kilns — to reduce their emissions of the pollutants widely believed to contribute to global warming.
The key mechanism driving the reductions would be a market program allowing businesses to buy, sell and trade emission credits with other companies.
The agreement came after weeks of difficult negotiations and was announced by the governor's office and Steve Maviglio, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Los Angeles Democrat.
The bill was praised by environmentalists as a step toward fighting global climate change but criticized by some business leaders, who say it would increase their costs and force them to scale back their California operations.
Republicans in the Legislature say climate change should be addressed at the national level, not on a state-by-state basis.
"Adopting costly and unattainable regulations will drive businesses and jobs out of California into other states and even into other countries with no commitment to improve air quality," said Assembly Republican leader George Plescia, a LaJolla Republican.
Schwarzenegger and the Legislature's Democratic leadership have embraced a cap on vehicle and industry emissions as a way to make California a trendsetter in fighting global warming.
The nation's most populous state is the world's 12th-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and could suffer dire consequences if global temperatures increase only a few degrees. Reports by state agencies indicate that a 2- to 3-degree rise in temperature could melt the Sierra Nevada snowpack earlier each year, leading to flooding in the Central Valley and threatening the state's long-term water supply for cities and farms.
Schwarzenegger has tried to position himself as a leader on the issue. Last year, he issued an executive order calling for the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010, 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
He organized a team that recommended a statewide cap and last month signed an accord with British Prime Minister
Tony Blair in which California and Britain will work together to research cleaner-burning fuels and technologies.
During the negotiations over the California cap, Schwarzenegger sought to appease his supporters in the business community by arguing for safeguards for the industries that would be most affected.
Administration officials have spent weeks seeking assurances that any legislation would require a market program similar to those in the
European Union' name. The idea would allow businesses to buy, sell or trade emission credits with other companies instead of making their own reductions if those cuts were considered too costly or technology difficult.
Such a program could help industries that may not be able to meet their targets through energy efficiency practices or the use of alternative fuels.
YAY to California! (and yay to San Francisco too, just because SF is cool)