California Air Resources Board approves updated environmental analysis of state climate plan, re-approves AB 32 Scoping Plan; cap-and-trade back in motion
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) approved an updated environmental analysis of the Scoping Plan. Approval of the updated environmental analysis (known as the Functional Equivalent Document, FED) was also accompanied by a vote to re-approve the AB 32 Scoping Plan. The vote means, among other things, that California’s cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is back in play.
The action was taken at the conclusion of a presentation to the Board by ARB staff on the status of AB 32, providing an update on the full range of actions, measures and initiatives to achieve the reductions of greenhouse gases required under the law. These include the Low Carbon Fuel Standard; progress on SB 375 (anti-sprawl bill); the forthcoming Advanced Clean Cars program to be considered by the Board later this year (the Advanced Clean Cars program is slated for a December 2011 board meeting); and cap-and-trade.
Background. In 2008 ARB, acting as the lead agency, prepared a FED for the AB 32 Scoping Plan (Scoping Plan). The Scoping Plan outlines the State’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as required by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The Scoping Plan includes a range of GHG emission reduction measures, including direct regulations, alternative compliance mechanisms, monetary and non-monetary incentives, voluntary actions, a market-based cap-and-trade system, and a fee regulation to fund the program.
A draft Scoping Plan was released for public review and comment on 26 June 2008, followed by workshops in July and August 2008. On 15 October 2008, the proposed 2008 Scoping Plan was released for a 45-day public review and comment period along with a FED that analyzed the potentially significant environmental impacts that could result from implementing the measures considered in the plan. Following the public review and comment period, the Scoping Plan and the FED were considered by the Board at an 11 December 2008 public hearing, and were subsequently finally approved by the Board’s Executive Officer on 11 May 2009.
The FED included an analysis of a range of five alternatives to the Scoping Plan, including: a no project alternative; an alternative based on cap-and-trade; an alternative based on source-specific regulatory requirements; an alternative based on a carbon fee or tax; and an alternative based on a variation of proposed strategies.
A lawsuit was filed challenging ARB’s approval of the Scoping Plan, and on 20 May 2011, Judge Goldsmith of the San Francisco County Superior Court issued a Final Order in the case (Association of Irritated Residents, et al. v. California Air Resources Board, et al., Case No. CPF-09-509562). Although the court upheld the impact analysis contained in the FED, the court found that the FED’s analysis of project alternatives was not sufficient for informed decision-making and public review under CEQA.
ARB staff prepared a Supplement to the FED for the Scoping Plan. The Supplement superseded and replaced the project alternatives section of the FED; the Board reconsidered its prior decision on the Scoping Plan based on the expanded environmental analysis provided in the Supplement, and re-affirmed its original decision.