Regulatory Round-up: Delays to Scoping Plan on the horizon

January 25, 2016 by Harry Horner

CaliforniaCarbon.info, January 25, 2016: The last ten days have seen two ARB meetings with content relevant to California’s Cap-and-Trade market. Firstly on the 15th of January, there was the Scoping Plan Economic Analysis Workshop; the 21st then saw ARB host its monthly Board Meeting. More pertinent material surfaced in the former of the two, but viewing the meetings in conjunction reveals more than the sum of the pair’s parts. As differing agendas became apparent, tensions surfaced between the three bodies involved with the creation and review of the Scoping Plan. However, before delving into some of these more intricate lines of friction, there were some related upshots from the prior AB32 meeting.

The meeting introduced ARB’s new team of academics who are tasked with continually reviewing the economic analysis behind the 2030 Target Scoping Plan. The team is composed of prominent economists and energy modelers from UC Berkeley, UC Davis and MIT. Their job entails an academic review of the models behind the Scoping Plan (PATHWAYS and REMI), as such they form only a revisional body and will not engage in new research. More technical information on both PATHWAYS and REMI can be found in the agenda of this AB32 meeting on the ARB website. The Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC) and ARB themselves complete the trio of official bodies involved with drafting and reviewing the 2030 Scoping Plan.

However, in and amongst the usual smörgåsbord of positive superlatives at the ARB board meeting, one could find tensions between these groups on the processes driving the production of the Scoping Plan. Katie Garcia, one of the most recent cohort of EJAC recruits, presented a comment to the Board detailing EJAC’s professed concerns over the short time schedule outlined for public outreach on the proposed Scoping Plan. In hand she held a committee-approved letter, endorsed by all branches of the Environmental Justice movement in California, that had been submitted for review by the Board. A preliminary EJAC draft of this letter can be found here.

She proceeded to outline how EJAC recommends a prolonged time schedule, both their letter and the consequent discussion, confirms the desired extension to be a full year. Under this timeframe, the Scoping plan would not be adopted until September 2017. Crucially, this would delay confirmation and details of the Cap and Trade scheme until directly before the final proposed compliance period.   This comment was followed by a tense discussion as is possible within the normally loving confines of an ARB board meeting.

Whilst the Board’s acting chair Sandra Berg necessarily made very explicit their commitment towards environmental justice, she maintained a pressing tone with regards to the Scoping Plan’s schedule. ARB’s Executive Officer Richard Corey emphasized the need to preserve the program’s momentum. He explicitly dismissed the ‘whole-year extension’ within the meeting, and expounded how a compromise was needed: ‘probably another workshop and some extra time’ was the exact phrase used. This therefore leaves the anticipated adoption of the Scoping Plan anytime between September 2016 and September 2017. Though the hierarchical position of the Board to EJAC may give them the upper hand in this compromise.

Conspicuous in its absence was any mention of the September 2016 federal deadline for California’s submission for the Clean Power Plan. In their letter, EJAC cites a provision made by EPA for an extension past the September 2016 deadline, if it allows for “meaningful engagement with stakeholders, including vulnerable communities”[1].

This brings into focus ARB’s reticence to any delay in the output of the Scoping Plan. Because California is highly likely to submit a ‘state measures’ plan to EPA for CPP compliance, ARB envisions the 2030 Scoping Plan providing the substantial backbone to their submission. An integrated CPP submission citing, if not just being, the Scoping Plan would be the most comprehensive and consistent solution to CPP compliance. EJAC is looking to divorce these two plans to allow for extra public consultation; removing the backbone from the body of the CPP submission is not likely to be a popular move for ARB staff. These tensions in agenda are likely to be teased out in public spheres at EJAC’s next meeting on the 5th February and of course the month’s Board meeting.

Notably, later in the meeting Board Member Supervisor Gioia commented how delays to plan submission and legislation leave the program more susceptible to derailment from opponents of climate change action. In essence, he seemed to be citing the old adage: ‘attack is the best form of defense’. This seems to colour the above narrative with evermore alarmed tones. With the presidential elections set for the 8th of November, and the possibility of a Republican president ready to tear up CPP and possibly much more besides, the adoption of a Scoping Plan before this potential federal turmoil must seem a more elegant and indeed stormproof solution to Gioia and Co.

All in all, any delay to the submission of the Scoping Plan has consequences far past the extra public outreach by EJAC. Concrete confirmation and crucially details of the renewal of California’s Cap and Trade program after 2020 will also be postponed; this affects all of the program’s stakeholders and the array of possible linkage partners. As mentioned above, a delay could also create an extended deadline for CPP submission – embarrassing for the world-leading ARB; or, more worryingly a divergence in content between California’s CPP text and it’s own 2030 Scoping Plan. Either way, this saga seems to warrant close and informed scrutiny over the coming months leading up to either, or both, of September’s deadlines.

Draft 2016 EJAC Timeline

Draft 2016 EJAC timeline, Source: materials used at EJAC’s January meeting

Harry Horner – (harry@californiacarbon.info)

[1] From the preamble to the U.S. EPA Clean Power Plan Final Rule dated October 23, 2015: § 60.5765 – “What must I include in an initial submittal if requesting an extension for a final plan submittal?”

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