California Leading The Way To Clean Energy Innovation While A Few Lag Behind Investing In Litigation, Obstructionism

This commentary by Erica Morehouse, EDF Staff Attorney was originally posted on EDF’s California Dream 2.0 blog.

Climate pollution threatens the health of California’s families and the prosperity of our economy. Last November, California began a vitally important program that reduces climate pollution, rewards clean energy innovation, and helps ensure that the biggest emitters are responsible for their own pollution.

The program places a firm limit on overall climate pollution from the largest industrial emitters in California, allows flexible solutions to achieve that limit across sources, and requires major industrial emitters to bear a small portion of their pollution costs by requiring them to obtain carbon emissions allowances under the state’s cap-and-trade program, under which allowances may be obtained in public auctions or trades on the open market.

Fast forward five months, Californians are already realizing critical health and economic benefits from this groundbreaking environmental policy. And, the Golden State continues to lead the way in clean energy and transportation jobs due in large part to AB 32, which has opened the door for greater investment in the clean energy economy. More good news: Yesterday, the state fulfilled a requirement of 2012 AB 32 Legislation by releasing its blueprint for how to expand these benefits by investing proceeds from auctions to strengthen our economy, our health, and the environment.

California’s plan focuses on making key greenhouse gas reductions in three sectors: transportation, energy, and natural resources. The goal is to create multiplier effects that allow Californians to draw benefits from these opportunities that far outweigh the investment. And every day new research shows just how widely the benefits of clean economy investments can ripple. EPA recently released a study showing that if energy costs accounted for the health impacts of burning fossil fuels, they would increase by between $361 and $886.5 billion annually. When California invests in clean energy those hidden health benefits accrue for years to come – and they protect our families and our children.

Yet some polluters in California lag behind California’s innovative clean energy economy. They continue to delay, deny and obstruct. On the same day the state released its plan, the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), on behalf of certain companies, filed a lawsuit challenging whether California could auction carbon allowances at all. The timing was no coincidence; a similar lawsuit was filed last November the day before California’s successful first auction. So it comes as no surprise to see PLF attempt to block the good news for California’s clean energy economy.

So who’s behind the lawsuit? The usual suspects. The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) has a long history of being a loyal partner to special interests like big tobacco in its effort to avoid legal responsibility for the health impacts of cigarette smoke. More recently, PLF petitioned the United States Supreme Court to reconsider EPA’s scientific finding, affirmed by a unanimous panel of judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals, that climate pollution negatively impacts human health and welfare.

Given PLF’s history, it’s not surprising that the group has chosen to focus its obstructionism on California’s most important health and environmental regulation. But it is unfortunate. As Californians work together to address dangerous pollution and strengthen our economy, PLF and its allies lag behind yet again, investing in litigation rather than innovative solutions to urgent societal challenges.

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