ARB Announces Plans to Require Major Industrial Facilities to Cut Pollution
At a California Senate oversight hearing yesterday called by Senator Pavley, a joint author of the state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), Air Resources Board Chairman Nichols reaffirmed her agency’s commitment to proceed with implementation of a robust package of clean energy policies backed up with a cap-and-trade program to cut the state’s emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.
Chairman Nichols also announced a major new addition to the AB 32 package – CARB will require that major industrial facilities in California, such as refineries and cement plants, implement cost-effective reduction measures that will provide significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions, public health benefits in communities most burdened by pollution, and economic benefits through energy efficiency improvements.
By requiring emission reductions at each major industrial facility, this plan will fill a key gap in California’s climate program and implement an important policy that NRDC and our environmental and environmental justice colleagues have been strongly advocating for several years. (For example, NRDC recently sent Governor Brown a letter identifying this as a top priority to continue improving AB 32 implementation.) To date, CARB has only required industrial facilities to evaluate opportunities to reduce emissions but has not required them to act upon the findings of their audits. Once CARB implements this new regulation, each major sector of the economy will be required to directly reduce harmful pollutants within that sector, and the cap-and-trade program will require emitters to make even further reductions and provide a backstop by creating a hard limit on emissions to ensure California meets AB 32’s goals.
The industrial sector accounts for roughly one-fifth of California’s total greenhouse gas emissions and is also a significant source of air pollution. CARB’s new regulation will be critical to achieve AB 32’s complementary goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality, particularly in communities that are already over-burdened by air pollution. Of course, the details of the final regulation will be key to ensure these benefits materialize, so NRDC will continue working closely with CARB to ensure the policy maximizes cost-effective and feasible emission reductions.
Chairman Nichols also announced that AB 32’s cap-and-trade program will start on time, taking the first year as a “trial run” to ensure it is working as designed. She explicitly noted that this “would not affect the stringency of the program or change the amount of emission reductions that the program will achieve, keeping us on track to meet the 2020 target required by AB 32.” Although CARB has not released the details of its proposal yet, it is important that this new timetable will not change the environmental performance of the cap-and-trade program: the state will still get the same emission reductions on the same timeline. The difference is that we will have a more gradual transition to full compliance, allowing more time for continued fine-tuning of this part of the state’s overall climate program. This is a prudent step forward to ensure that the program will achieve the expected emission reductions and operate effectively.
These two adjustments to the AB 32 implementation plan will cut more pollution and provide more regulatory certainty to achieve the state’s emission limit.