Court Discharges Case against California Climate Law

More than two years after a suit was filed to stop California’s cap-and-trade program, a San Francisco superior court yesterday approved the state’s recently submitted environmental impact analysis, confirming that California has adequately studied options for how to meet its climate goals.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) got a thumbs up on its AB 32 Scoping Plan that features more than 70 pollution-reducing measures including a cap-and-trade regulation that will establish North America’s largest carbon market. These measures will work in concert to cut climate pollution to 1990 levels by 2020.

Although the overall litigation on the Scoping Plan is not over (pending resolution of the appeals process), the question of whether CARB’s new analysis satisfies the court’s initial concerns is settled.  This decision removes what was once a major obstacle to adopting the state’s greenhouse gas reduction plan and gives the state another green light to start enforcing cap-and-trade in 2013.

Yesterday’s decision is the latest ruling in a suit that was filed in 2009, shortly after the state adopted the Scoping Plan, a blueprint for reducing climate change pollution.  The suit claimed among other things that California hadn’t properly analyzed the full range of options for reducing pollution. In an earlier decision this past May, the trial judge affirmed CARB’s authority to pursue a market-based program, but said the level of detail in the required alternatives analysis needed improvement. CARB followed that by preparing an expanded analysis submitted to the court in October.  Yesterday’s action was the court’s approval of that newly submitted analysis. 

Parties looking to undermine California’s leadership in fighting climate change may still use the courts to try to stop the state’s landmark cap-and-trade regulation over the next year. EDF remains confident that California’s progress towards a low-carbon economy can and will remain on course.




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