California Air Resources Board Issues Draft Update to AB 32 Scoping Plan

This week the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released a draft of its AB 32 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update. The original Scoping Plan was adopted in 2008 and must be updated every five years. The Scoping Plan serves as a blueprint for achieving AB 32’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The draft Update summarizes programs implemented over the last five years under AB 32 and outlines actions necessary to continue California’s progress toward the 2020 emissions reduction goal. The draft Update shows that California is on track to meet the 2020 emissions reduction goal and inventories the progress made across different economic sectors and programs like cap and trade. With the Update, ARB continues its strategy of achieving AB 32 goals through a mix of emissions reduction measures, including regulatory programs, incentives, and market-based approaches.

The draft Update also provides key recommended actions to maintain the momentum of emission reductions and advance emissions reduction goals beyond 2020. Areas of focus include:

  • Energy - reducing GHGs from electricity generation as well as reducing energy use through greater efficiency.
  • Transportation, land use, fuels, and infrastructure - from increasing the use of low carbon fuels and electric vehicles, to changing how communities are developed.
  • Water - increasing the efficiency of water use in order to reduce the carbon footprint of supplying water to various sectors within the state.
  • Agriculture - implementing GHG emission reduction management practices.
  • Forests, rangelands, and wetlands - integrating carbon management into resource management plans to reduce emissions associated with the use of these resources and optimize carbon sequestration on these lands.
  • Waste - reducing waste, maximizing recycling and composting, and developing markets and infrastructure for the reuse of waste.

On October 15, ARB will hold a public workshop on the draft Scoping Plan Update. Public comments may be submitted on the draft Update on or before November 1. The Board will discuss the draft Update at its October 24 and 25 meeting. ARB anticipates issuing the Proposed Scoping Plan Update prior to the Board’s December meeting, with approval of the Update expected in spring 2014.

Tentative Ruling Issued in California Cap and Trade Auction Lawsuit

A tentative ruling was issued yesterday in the related cases California Chamber of Commerce v. California Air Resources Board (ARB)  and  Morning Star Packing Co. v. ARB, pending before the Sacramento County Superior Court.  The cases challenge the legality of ARB's cap and trade auctions under two theories:  (1) the cap and trade auctions exceed ARB's authority under AB 32, and (2) the auctions amount to an illegal tax adopted without the requisite two-thirds approval of the California Legislature.  The Court tentatively ruled in ARB's favor that the agency's implementation of a cap and trade auction system is within the scope of AB 32, which delegated ARB authority to design the distribution of emissions allowances.  The Court did not rule on whether the allowance auctions constitute an illegal tax.  The tentative ruling outlined questions on this topic for oral argument, which was heard yesterday.  A ruling on the tax challenge is expected in the next 90 days.

ARB held its most recent quarterly auction on August 4, 2013.  2013 vintage allowances sold for $12.22.  In the advance auction of 2016 vintage allowances, held concurrently, allowances sold for $11.10.

Results for Third California Cap and Trade Auction Released

The results are in for the third California cap and trade auction.  A metric ton of CO2e went for $14 in the third auction, which took place on May 16, 2013. The top bid at the auction was $50.01, with a mean bid of $16.67 submitted. All of the 14.5 million 2013 vintage allowances available at the auction were sold, with 1.78 bids submitted for each available allowance. Demand was down compared with the second auction, that took place in February 2013, where roughly 2.5 bids were received for every available 2013 vintage allowance. In the third auction, just over 90% of the allowances were purchased by entities that have compliance obligations under the cap and trade program. Allowance prices have continued to slowly rise, with a settlement price of $10.09 per metric ton CO2e in November 2012, $13.62 in February 2013, and $14 in this most recent auction. See my earlier blog post for some details on auction rules.

CARB also held an advance auction of 2016 vintage allowances on May 16. 7.5 million of roughly 9.6 million allowances available were purchased at this advance auction. The settlement price was the same as the minimum bid price allowed, $10.71 per metric ton CO2e. Though all of the 2016 vintage allowances offered were not sold in the third advance auction, demand rose over the second advance auction held in February 2013. In the third advance auction, CARB received about eight bids for every ten 2016 vintage allowances available; in the second advance auction, there were about five bids for every ten 2016 vintage allowances. 

An Allowance Price Containment Reserve sale will take place June 27, 2013. The next allowance auction will be held August 16, 2013.

California Links to Québec's Cap and Trade System

On April 19, 2013, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to link the California cap and trade program to Québec’s cap and trade system. CARB approved changes to the California cap and trade regulation on Friday to allow for the linkage, which is effective January 1, 2014. In practical terms, the linkage opens a new market for greenhouse gas allowances and offsets for California’s regulated entities and offset generators. As Québec’s cap and trade participants enter the California market, regulated entities in California could face tighter competition in bidding for allowances at CARB’s quarterly auctions. 

CARB is also planning for additional amendments to the California cap and trade regulation this year. Many of the potential changes were teed up for consideration in CARB Resolutions 12-33, 12-51, and 11-32. Topics up for potential amendment include:

  • Refining the definition of resource shuffling and clarifying how CARB will deal with the problem. CARB will base proposed amendments to resource shuffling provisions on the recommended actions presented by staff in October 2012. 
  • Providing transition assistance to electrical generating facilities with legacy power purchase agreements that do not provide for recovery of the cost of compliance with the cap and trade program. 
  • Exemption for steam and waste heat emissions from combined heat and power. 
  • Exemption for emissions from waste-to-energy facilities during the first compliance period (2013-2014).
  • Evaluate trade exposure categorizations and modify leakage risk determinations for rare earth mineral extraction activities, acid battery recycling activities, and liquid hydrogen production.
  • Product benchmarks for rare earth mineral extraction, acid battery recycling, dry gas extraction, food processing, foundries, metal casting, metal forging, and ethanol production. Staff may also propose benchmark modifications for thermal and non-thermal oil extraction, natural gas extraction, petroleum refining, hydrogen production, coke calcining, flat glass and container glass manufacturing, recycled boxboard manufacturing, and tissue product manufacturing.
  • The allowance allocation approach for the petroleum refining sector for the second (2015-2017) and third (2018-2020) compliance periods.
  • Allowance allocation to California universities that took early actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in energy efficiency and combined heat and power.
  • Issues surrounding the implementation of the offset program.
  • New offset protocols for coal mine methane capture and rice cultivation practices.
  • Ensuring allowances prices do not exceed the highest tier price of the Allowance Price Containment Reserve.
  • Requirements for the retirement of renewable energy credits from electrical generating facilities to prevent double-counting.
  • Changes to implementation of the Auction Platform and Compliance Information Tracking Services System (CITSS) and modification of the current schedule for auctions and reserve sales.
  • Modification of information disclosure requirements for the CITSS.
  • Modification of current auction purchase limits.

CARB currently plans to release the language of draft proposed amendments in June 2013 and will consider adopting them in October 2013.

Results of California Cap and Trade Quarterly Auction Released

On February 19, 2013, the California Air Resources Board held its second auction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission allowances for its Cap and Trade Program. This was the first quarterly auction for 2013; the first auction was held November 14, 2012. All ‘covered entities’ – GHG emitters regulated under Cap and Trade – were eligible to participate in the auction. Voluntarily associated entities, i.e. groups who wish to retire allowances or sell allowances on the market, were also eligible to participate. Some key rules of the auction: 

  • Participants submit sealed bids, for multiples of 1,000 allowances. 
  • For 2013 auctions, the minimum bid is $10.71 per allowance.
  • One allowance equals the right to emit one metric ton of CO2 (or other GHGs in CO2-equivalent terms). 
  • Allowances are awarded beginning with the highest bid and proceeding through successively lower bids until the total number of allowances available for sale have been awarded.
  • The final price of allowances for all participants in the auction, the “settlement price,” is the lowest bid received at which the supply of available allowances for sale is exhausted.

In this auction, the settlement price for 2013 vintage allowances was $13.62. All of the approximately 13 million allowances offered for sale were sold. The auction also included the advance sale of 2016 vintage allowances. The settlement price for 2016 allowances was $10.71. 4,440,000 2016 vintage allowances were sold, approximately half the total number offered for sale. There were approximately 2.5 bids for every one allowance, compared with approximately one bid for each allowance during the November 2012 auction. Not surprisingly, auction participation is up, with covered entities facing compliance obligations this year.

 

The settlement prices for this auction were slightly higher than those of the first auction, held November 14, 2012. The settlement price for 2013 vintage allowances in November 2012 was $10.09. Advance sales of 2015 vintage allowances were settled at $10, the minimum price, in the November 2012 auction. The Air Resources Board will hold an allowance price containment reserve sale on March 8, 2013, offering allowances at a three tiers of fixed prices.

First California Cap-and-Trade Auction Delayed, Lawsuit Filed to Challenge Offset Protocols

From Allison C. Smith and Lee N. Smith:

Last week was busy for the California Cap-and-Trade Program, adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) last December under A.B. 32. First, last Tuesday, CARB Chairman Mary Nichols announced at a Senate hearing that the first scheduled Cap-and-Trade allowance auction, scheduled for August 2012, will be a “practice” auction rather than a “real” auction for the purchase of actual allowances. Reportedly, the delay is to allow industry to gain an understanding of how actual, future auctions will work. The first “real” auction is still scheduled for November 1, 2012.

On Wednesday, March 28, two environmental groups, the Citizens Climate Lobby and Our Children's Earth Foundation filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court challenging the use of greenhouse gas emission offsets by entities regulated under Cap-and-Trade to meet their Cap-and-Trade compliance obligations. Although the suit will not necessarily delay implementation of Cap-and-Trade and the offset program, if the lawsuit ultimately invalidates the offset protocols and eliminates the use of offsets to meet Cap-and-Trade obligations, the cost of compliance for industry could be substantially increased. Plaintiffs are alleging that the offset program, with its four adopted offset protocols, are reductions that would have occurred in the normal course of business, and are therefore not "additional” greenhouse gas reductions and threaten the overarching integrity of the Cap-and-Trade Program. The plaintiffs request a repeal of the four offset protocols approved in December 2011 and a prohibition on using offsets in place of greenhouse gas allowances to meet Cap-and-Trade obligations.

Compliance with California Cap-And-Trade May Be Deferred until 2013

Yesterday, the Executive Director of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), Mary Nichols, announced that CARB is proposing to delay full implementation of California’s cap-and-trade program for a year. In testimony before the California Senate Select Committee on the Environment, the Economy, and Climate Change, Nichols stated that CARB is proposing to “initiate” the cap-and-trade program in 2012, but delay requirements for compliance until January 1, 2013. CARB adopted cap-and-trade in December 2010 and the program was set to go into effect on January 1, 2012, the statutory deadline for all greenhouse gas emissions reduction measures under A.B. 32 to become operative. CARB’s announcement comes despite an order from the California Court of Appeals last Friday that CARB can continue with implementation of cap-and-trade pending appeals related to the program in Association of Irritated Residents v. CARB. Earlier this month, CARB issued a revised analysis of alternatives to the cap-and-trade program, as ordered by the lower court in Association of Irritated Residents v. CARB. That supplemental environmental document is currently open for public comment until July 28 and CARB will consider adoption of the supplement on August 24, 2011. Nichols stated in her testimony that CARB will hold a public workshop in the next few weeks on its proposal to delay cap-and-trade compliance and other elements needed to finalize the cap-and-trade regulation. Look for CARB to issue an updated draft regulation in advance of the public workshop.

Governor Brown Signs Bill Increasing California's Renewable Portfolio Standard to 33%

A Legal News Alert from Seth Hilton and the Stoel Rives Renewable Energy Law Group:

California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill ("SB") X1-2 on Tuesday requiring California's electric utilities to procure 33% of their energy from renewable resources by 2020.  Upon signing the bill, Governor Brown stated the "bill will bring many important benefits to California, including stimulating investment in green technologies in the state, creating tens of thousands of new jobs, improving air quality, promoting energy independence and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Details concerning the implementation of the new legislation will have to be worked out at various California regulatory agencies, including the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission. The legislation will likely spawn numerous regulatory proceedings as the various regulatory agencies struggle to come to grips with the new RPS mandate.

For more information about SBX1-2, please see our earlier blog post and detailed Renewable Energy Law Alert, dated March 29, 2011.

Legislature Passes SBX1-2 to Increase California RPS to 33%

Legal News Alert from Stoel Rives Renewable Energy Law Group

The California Legislature has passed Senate Bill (“SB”) X1-2, which requires California’s electric utilities to increase their renewable generation to 33% by 2020. Passage of the legislation is the culmination of years of effort to increase California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) from its current 20%. In 2009, the Legislature passed SB 14, which also would have increased California’s RPS to 33%, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger on the ground that it imposed too many restrictions on the use of out-of-state generation to meet California’s RPS requirement. Governor Schwarzenegger then issued an executive order directing the California Air Resources Board to develop its own 33% Renewable Energy Standard under the Board’s authority pursuant to Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Last year, the Legislature again tried to pass another 33% RPS bill, SB 722, but the session expired before the legislation could reach a final vote. Two bills were introduced in this session: SB 23 and SBX1-2. SBX1-2 was identical to SB 23, but it was introduced in special session in an attempt to speed passage of the legislation. SBX1-2 now goes to Governor Brown for signature, and he is expected to sign the legislation into law.

For more background and information on the decision and its implications, click here.

California Court Enjoins Implementation of Cap-and-Trade

Legal News Alert from Stoel Rives Environmental Law Group

 

March 23, 2011

San Francisco Superior Court has issued a final decision in Association of Irritated Residents v. California Air Resources Board.  For the moment, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is enjoined from further rulemaking to implement the California Global Warming Solutions Act (A.B. 32), including for the cap-and-trade program.  The Court upheld the validity of CARB’s Scoping Plan for implementation of A.B. 32, saving CARB from having to revise the Plan.  But, the Court found flaws with CARB’s environmental review of the Scoping Plan under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), in particular its analysis of alternatives to the Plan’s recommended greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction measures, such as cap and trade.  CARB is enjoined from further rulemaking until the agency has come into compliance with CEQA by amending its environmental review of the Scoping Plan. 

For entities facing regulation under A.B. 32, this decision has important implications.  Scoping Plan GHG reduction measures that have already made their way through the rulemaking process appear unaffected.  But CARB’s cap-and-trade program never made it out of the formal rulemaking process. While the Board members of CARB approved the cap-and-trade program in December 2010, it left it to the Executive Officer to take final action to adopt the proposed regulation (or bring it back to the Board) after more details were finalized.  CARB had a packed schedule this year to finalize cap and trade prior to its January 1, 2012 start date.  Under the Court’s final decision, these activities will have to be shelved if they fall within the rubric of further rulemaking or implementation.  Regulated entities may thus have a temporary reprieve from the onset of cap and trade in 2012.  But continued uncertainty over the details of CARB’s planned GHG regulation of stationary sources is a less than ideal situation for regulated sources.

For more background and information on the decision and its implications, click here.

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California Court Enjoins Implementation of Cap-and-Trade

Legal News Alert from Stoel Rives Environmental Law Group

 

March 23, 2011

San Francisco Superior Court has issued a final decision in Association of Irritated Residents v. California Air Resources Board.  For the moment, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is enjoined from further rulemaking to implement the California Global Warming Solutions Act (A.B. 32), including for the cap-and-trade program.  The Court upheld the validity of CARB’s Scoping Plan for implementation of A.B. 32, saving CARB from having to revise the Plan.  But, the Court found flaws with CARB’s environmental review of the Scoping Plan under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), in particular its analysis of alternatives to the Plan’s recommended greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction measures, such as cap and trade.  CARB is enjoined from further rulemaking until the agency has come into compliance with CEQA by amending its environmental review of the Scoping Plan. 

For entities facing regulation under A.B. 32, this decision has important implications.  Scoping Plan GHG reduction measures that have already made their way through the rulemaking process appear unaffected.  But CARB’s cap-and-trade program never made it out of the formal rulemaking process. While the Board members of CARB approved the cap-and-trade program in December 2010, it left it to the Executive Officer to take final action to adopt the proposed regulation (or bring it back to the Board) after more details were finalized.  CARB had a packed schedule this year to finalize cap and trade prior to its January 1, 2012 start date.  Under the Court’s final decision, these activities will have to be shelved if they fall within the rubric of further rulemaking or implementation.  Regulated entities may thus have a temporary reprieve from the onset of cap and trade in 2012.  But continued uncertainty over the details of CARB’s planned GHG regulation of stationary sources is a less than ideal situation for regulated sources.

For more background and information on the decision and its implications, click here.

If you currently subscribe to Stoel Rives legal updates, click here to update your contact information and preferences. To join the Stoel Rives mailing list and ensure direct delivery of future alerts, click here to subscribe. To unsubscribe, send an email to unsubscribe@stoel.com.

Recommendations for Carbon Capture and Storage in California

The California Carbon Capture and Storage Review Panel released its final recommendations last week after nine months of fact-finding and deliberations. The Panel was sponsored by the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”), with participation from the California Department of Conservation and the California State Water Board. The Panel was formed to review the statutory and regulatory barriers to the use of carbon capture and storage (“CCS”) as a strategy to combat climate change. CCS is a technology with potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial sources on a large scale by capturing the emissions and sequestering them in geologic formations underground.

The Panel’s recommendations focus on:

  • ensuring that CCS can play a role in meeting California’s greenhouse gas emission (“GHG”) reduction requirements (e.g., the Panel recommends that CARB consider and integrate CCS into its GHG rules);
  • addressing regulatory and permitting barriers for CCS projects (e.g., the Panel recommends establishing a coordinated permitting system with the California Energy Commission as the lead agency);
  • addressing key legal issues and uncertainties (e.g., the Panel recommends that the legislature declare surface owners to be the owners of subsurface pore space that could be used for carbon dioxide storage); and
  • ensuring the safe, equitable, and cost-effective use of CCS in California (e.g., the Panel recommends that the legislature establish that any cost allocation mechanisms for CCS projects be spread as broadly as possible across all Californians).

The Panel was comprised of experts from industry, trade groups, academia, and environmental organizations. Stoel Rives’ Jerry Fish served on the Panel’s Technical Advisory Committee along with representatives from the relevant state agencies and other expert consultants. With assistance from other members of Stoel’s CCS team, he contributed white papers on carbon dioxide pipelines, pore space rights, and enhanced oil recovery issues and advised on the Panel on a variety of property, liability, and regulatory issues for CCS. For more information on CCS or the Panel’s work, please contact:

Read the Panel’s key findings and recommendations after the jump or download the full background report and final recommendations report from the California Climate Change Portal.

Key Findings (see pages 3-4 of Findings and Recommendations by the California Carbon Capture and Storage Review Panel, December 2010):

1.     There is a public benefit from long-term geologic storage of CO2 as a strategy for reducing GHG emissions to the atmosphere as required by California laws and policies.

2.     Technology currently exists for the safe and effective capture, transport, and geological storage of CO2 from power plants and other large industrial facilities.

3.     High costs, inadequate economic drivers, remaining uncertainties in the regulatory and legal frameworks for CO2 storage, and uncertainties regarding public acceptance are barriers to the near-term deployment of commercial-scale CCS projects in California.

4.     There is a need for clear rules under AB 32 regarding the treatment of CO2 emission reductions from CCS projects involving capped and uncapped emission sources.

5.     Multiple state and federal agencies are currently responsible for permitting CCS projects in California.

6.     There is a need for clear, efficient, and consistent regulatory requirements and authority for permitting all phases of CCS projects in California, including CO2 capture, transport, and storage.

7.     Standards are needed to ensure the safe and effective operation of geologic storage projects.

8.     Consistent requirements are needed for monitoring, measuring, verifying, and reporting injected CO2, and releases, if any, and for GHG accounting protocols necessary to comply with federal and state laws and policies to reduce CO2 emissions.

9.     There is a need to establish clear financial responsibility for the stewardship of geologic storage sites during the (a) operating phase; (b) post-injection (pre-closure) monitoring phase; and (c) post-closure phase.

10. The right to use subsurface pore space for geologic storage needs to be clarified.

11. There is a need to address any potential environmental justice aspects of CCS projects.

12. There is a need for increased public understanding of CCS benefits and risks.

13. Absent new initiatives, economic barriers to early CCS deployment will delay the technological learning needed to drive down the costs of CCS. 

 Key Recommendations (see pages 4-5 of Findings and Recommendations by the California Carbon Capture and Storage Review Panel, December 2010):

To ensure that CCS can play a role in meeting California’s requirements for GHG emission reductions:

1.   The State should recognize appropriately regulated CCS as a measure that can safely and effectively reduce atmospheric emissions of CO2 from relevant stationary sources, including power plants and other industrial sources. To that end, and conditioned on compliance with all applicable federal and state requirements, ARB should: (a) for capped sources under AB 32, recognize CO2 sequestered by CCS projects as having not been emitted to the atmosphere (with the result that an allowance is not required to be held for each ton of CO2 that is captured and geologically stored) and define accounting protocols for sequestered CO2 and (b) for uncapped sources under AB 32, decide whether offset protocols for CCS projects within the State should be adopted.

To address regulatory and permitting issues related to CCS projects:

2.      The State should evaluate current EPA regulations and determine which, if any, State agency should seek “primacy” for permitting Class VI wells under the UIC program.

3.      The State should designate the California Energy Commission (Energy Commission) as the lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) for preventing significant environmental impacts in CCS projects (both new and retrofit projects).

4.      The State should clarify that the State Fire Marshall is indeed the lead agency for regulating the safety and operation of intrastate CO2 pipelines.

5.      The Energy Commission should consult with the responsible permitting agencies in carrying out its responsibilities as the CEQA lead agency for CCS projects. Specifically, the Energy Commission should:

a.       Designate the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to be the responsible agency for activities related to the subsurface.

b.      Coordinate the development of performance standards for CCS sites that would include design requirements and other operational measurements consistent with the goals of protecting the groundwater and preventing emissions of CO2 to the atmosphere.

c.       Designate the California Air Resources Board as the responsible agency for air-related aspects of CO2 monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) requirements.

d.      Designate the State Fire Marshall as the responsible agency for CO2 pipelines.

e.       Designate the State Water Board as the responsible agency for impacts to water quality.

f.       Designate other agencies as appropriate.

To address key legal issues and uncertainties related to CCS projects:

6.   The State should consider legislation establishing an industry-funded trust fund to manage and be responsible for geologic site operations in the post-closure stewardship phase. In addition, California should proactively participate in federal legislative efforts to enact similar post-closure stewardship programs under federal law.

7.   The State legislature should declare that the surface owner is the owner of the subsurface “pore space” needed to store CO2. The legislature should further establish procedures for aggregating and adjudicating the use of, and compensation for, pore space for CCS projects.

8.   The State should consider whether legislation is needed to extend to CO2 transportation infrastructure for CCS projects the current authority for acquiring the rights of way for the siting of transportation infrastructure for natural gas storage projects.

To ensure the safe, equitable, and cost-effective use of CCS in California:

9.   It should be State policy that the burdens and benefits of CCS be shared equally among all Californians. Toward this end, the permitting authority shall endeavor to reduce, as much as possible, any disparate impacts to residents of any particular geographic area or any particular socioeconomic class.

10.                       The Panel endorses the need for a well-thought-out and well-funded public outreach program to ensure that the risks and benefits of CCS technology are effectively communicated to the public.

11.                       The State legislature should establish that any cost allocation mechanisms for CCS projects should be spread as broadly as possible across all Californians.

12.                       The State should evaluate a variety of different types of incentives for early CCS projects in California and consider implementing those that are most cost-effective.

  

California's Proposed GHG Cap-and-Trade Program Out for Public Comment

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has issued its proposed greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, pursuant to the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). The proposed regulation builds on the conceptual framework for ARB’s cap-and-trade program, released in November 2009. The 45-day public comment period on the regulation opened yesterday and closes on December 15, 2010. Whether by design or happenstance, ARB released this latest on the cap-and-trade program just before Californians will vote today on whether to suspend AB 32 under ballot box Proposition 23. Proposition 23 would suspend AB 32 until California’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.5% or less, for four consecutive quarters. Given that the state’s current unemployment rate is about 12%, and the unemployment rate has been below 5.5% for four consecutive quarters only three times since 1980, Proposition 23 could halt the implementation of AB 32 indefinitely.

Program Overview

Regulated sources have been reporting GHG emissions for several years now. Using this information, ARB will set a GHG emissions cap in 2012 based on an estimate of actual emissions for that year. The electricity sector, including imports, and large industrial facilities will be the first GHG sources subject to the program in 2012, following by fuel distributors in 2015. Any electrical generator or other stationary source emitting more than 25,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent gases will be allocated emissions allowances in 2012 based on its emissions reporting. The overall emissions cap will decline 2% to 3% each year, with fewer allowances to be issued on an annual basis, though the overall cap will expand in 2015 with the introduction into the program of providers of transportation fuels and residential and commercial fuels. Together these sources account for 85% of California’s total GHG emissions. The regulation also gives ARB the option of expanding the program to include other emissions sources.   

Compliance

A source will be able to use emissions offsets to satisfy up to 8% of its compliance obligations. Under the program as proposed, offsets can be generated by the reduction or removal of GHG emissions from an activity that is not covered by the cap and can be measured, quantified, and verified. Offsets must be real, permanent, verifiable, enforceable, quantifiable, and additional. ARB may accept existing qualified offset projects into the offsets program. It has also proposed compliance offset protocols for ozone depleting substance projects, livestock manure (digester) projects, urban forest projects, and U.S. Forest projects. The proposed regulation also establishes a framework for accepting sector-based offset credits from developing countries. 

Initial emission allowances to industry and utilities will be free. ARB will allow emissions allowances to be traded and banked. Sources will have a three-year compliance period to allow for annual variations in output. An emitter that exceeds the emissions threshold in any given year will have a compliance obligation going forward. 

Public Meetings

ARB staff will present an overview of the proposed program to the Board at its November 18, 2010 meeting. ARB will hold a public hearing to consider the cap-and-trade program on December 16, 2010 in Sacramento. 

Air Resources Board Adopts 33% Renewable Energy Standard; Four California Energy Agencies Vow to Cooperate on Implementation

Here's an Energy Law Alert prepared by Seth Hilton, John McKinsey and Stephen Hall:

Last Thursday evening, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) unanimously adopted its Renewable Energy Standard (RES), mandating that California's electric utilities—both public and investor-owned—procure 33% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020. The RES was adopted pursuant to the authority granted the ARB in AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which vested the ARB with the authority to promulgate regulations to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions. The RES requires utilities to submit plans by July 2012 on how they will comply with the new regulations. The regulation includes several multi-year compliance intervals—from 2012 to 2014 the RES is 20%, from 2015 through 2017 it is 24%, from 2018 to 2019 it is 28%, and from 2020 forward the RES remains at 33%. The RES is met through the retirement of Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS) certificates; unlike the current 20% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that applies to investor-owned utilities, there is no requirement that any energy be delivered to California. WREGIS certificates may be retained or traded for up to three years, utilities may also bank those certificates for RES compliance indefinitely. The RES also provides that ARB will conduct comprehensive reviews of the program by December 31, 2013, 2016, and 2018, and that those reviews may trigger modifications to the RES.

The proposed RES faced vigorous opposition from a variety of sources. On September 20, 2010, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and Speaker of the California Assembly John Perez sent a joint letter to ARB Chair Mary Nichols, urging the ARB to set aside consideration of the RES, as the ARB's proposed action was "contrary to law, creates economic uncertainty and potential job losses…, and creates an inefficient and duplicative state bureaucracy." The letter noted that the Legislative Analysis Office had opined that the ARB lacked the authority to implement the RES, and recommended that the legislature de-fund those positions being used by the ARB to proceed with RES adoption.

The letter also noted that California also has two energy agencies already involved in implementing the legislative 20% RPS—the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission (CEC)—and that the ARB's efforts to regulate the increase from a 20% RPS to a 33% RES would lead to inefficiencies and wasteful spending.

Perhaps to address concerns about inefficiencies and duplications of effort, the following day, on September 21, 2010, the ARB, CPUC, CEC, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Independent System Operator released a report entitled "California's Clean Energy Future," an implementation plan and roadmap for reaching 33% renewables by 2020. In its resolution adopting the RES, the ARB also emphasized its intent to cooperate with the CPUC and CEC on implementation of the RES.

One area of potential conflict between the 20% RPS administered by the CEC and the CPUC and the RES is the lack of any delivery requirement under the RES—compliance is demonstrated through the surrender of renewable energy credits unbundled from the associated renewable energy. In contrast, the 20% RPS requires that energy be delivered to California. The CPUC is currently considering a proposed decision that would allow the use of unbundled or tradable renewable energy credits for compliance with the 20% RPS, but that would put caps on the amount of such credits that could be used for compliance.

However, the ARB resolution adopting the RES states that no later than 30 days after the CPUC adopts its decision regarding tradable renewable energy credits, the ARB will initiate a rulemaking to ensure "continued harmonization of the two programs, specifically incorporating provisions related to Tradable Renewable Energy Credits for all regulated parties under the RES regulation."

There remain significant questions as to whether the RES will ever be implemented. In addition to comments from the legislature concerning potential de-funding of any positions used to implement the regulations, the elections this November could also change the course of implementation. Depending on who is elected governor, the new governor may seek to suspend the ARB's implementation of the regulation, or to have it modified. Also on the November ballot is Proposition 23, which would suspend implementation of AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. ARB's claimed authority to implement the RES is primarily based the grant of authority given it under AB 32. Continued efforts are also underway to have the legislature pass a 33% renewable statute that would preempt ARB's efforts. Finally, given the uncertainties concerning ARB's authority to implement the new regulation, a legal challenge to that authority is also a possibility.

If you have any questions about the issues of this update, please contact:

Stephen Hall at (503) 294-9625 or schall@stoel.com
Seth Hilton at (916) 319-4749 or sdhilton@stoel.com
John McKinsey at (916) 319-4746 or jamckinsey@stoel.com