What’s New? Objections Filed in the AB 32 Lawsuit

The parties involved in the lawsuit “Association of Irritated Residents v. California Air Resources Board (CARB)” filed objections yesterday to the judge’s tentative ruling that could lead to a temporary suspension of the state’s landmark climate change plan.

Given the breadth of the materials filed in this suit and the scope of the  ruling, the arguments in the objections were both expected and appropriate. In fact, they shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. 

As our post explained last week, the AB 32 Scoping Plan is a unique document that defines how California will cut global warming pollution to 1990 levels by 2020 while protecting our economy and attracting billions of investment dollars in companies with innovative clean energy technologies.

Petitioners, representing environmental justice interests, sued the state more than a year ago to block the plan’s implementation. On January 24th, the San Francisco Superior Court judge hearing the case issued a tentative ruling telling CARB that the package of measures in the plan was legal but that the analysis of the alternatives to those measures, and the process used to pass the plan, was defective. 

So what happens now? Pursuant to California Rule of Court 3.1590, the court may order a hearing from which a final ruling would follow a maximum of 10 days later.  Without a hearing, we expect to see a ruling within 50 days from the date the tentative decision was filed or before March 15th.

One of the most important aspects of the state’s objections, as EDF sees it, is the request for more clarity on what the court found was wrong with the process, and what part of the plan it intends to stop or ‘enjoin’ in its decision. 

More certainty on these issues is vital. For California to cut pollution as required, improve its air quality and protect and grow its economy, CARB and other state agencies need to use all of the tools at their disposal. They also need certainty that important initiatives—such as the Million Solar Roofs program, the 33% renewable portfolio standard, and energy efficiency standards—can proceed. 

While we aren’t going to prejudge whether the state met its burden to study alternative approaches to cap-and-trade, we are confident that whatever final decision the court makes, the state can and will take the steps needed so that it can continue implementing the Scoping Plan’s wide range of measures, including its emissions-trading program that’s scheduled to start in January 2012.

Though the parties are on opposite sides of the court, there is one common thread running through this case: both sides appear to be committed to making sure the state’s decision-making process, and the implications of those decisions, are analyzed in an open forum.  California’s Environmental Quality Act demands it, as does the environment, and all California citizens and communities deserve it.

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