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Limiting Offsets Will Lead To Cleaner Air, More Jobs

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OP-ED
By Assemblymember Wilmer Amina Carter, District 62


The California state legislature is now facing a measure that will have significant and positive impact on creating a clean energy economy, local green jobs and cleaner air in the Inland Empire and throughout our state. It will also dramatically cut global warming pollution.

Assembly Bill 1404, which I coauthored, will limit the use of offsets as an option to comply with California’s global warming law. A global warming offset is a credit that a company can buy as a substitute for making some cuts in their own air pollution. An electric utility in California, for example, might pay a business in Mexico to capture methane from a pig farm rather than reduce its own pollution by building a wind or solar plant in California or cleaning up one of its fossil-fuel plants.

Without this bill, which is now going before the State Assembly, polluters may be allowed to outsource up to half of the global warming pollution cuts that they otherwise would have been required to make. This would be a shame, because we know that local efforts to cut global warming pollution can have countless side-benefits.

Analysis done by the state shows that implementing California’s global warming policies without offsets would create an estimated 500,000 new jobs. Those jobs would come from building wind turbines and solar panels, but they also come from more money being pumped into the economy by people having to spend less of their paycheck on the electricity bill and gas for the car due to greater energy and fuel efficiency.  The energy efficiency laws that California passed in the 1970s are a good example of how this could work. State energy efficiency measures have enabled Californians to save $56 billion on their energy bills over the last several decades.  These measures decreased monthly electricity bills, so instead of sending our money to coal companies in other states for expensive imported electricity, we spent that money here at home.

That extra spending created about 1.5 million jobs. Offsets would decrease the incentive to invest in energy efficiency and new renewable energy because it’s much easier to pay someone else to make a change instead of doing it yourself.

When our state’s biggest global warming polluters—fossil-fuel-based electricity generators, gasoline and diesel fuel providers, oil refineries, and heavily-polluting industries— reduce their global warming emissions, they often simultaneously reduce smog-forming and toxic air pollutants as well. But if polluters pay someone else to reduce emissions, the lungs of the people living around those polluting facilities will pay the price.

San Bernardino and Riverside counties top the list in California of the region most polluted year round by lung-damaging particle matter.  This means that every year, tens of thousands of Californians are dying prematurely due to chronic exposure to fine particle air pollution. The clean air benefits of reducing global warming pollution are not something we can afford to lose through offsets.

A recent University of California Berkeley study found that by implementing our global warming law without offsets, California could simultaneously reduce thousands of additional tons of harmful air pollutants.  The study showed that the more out-of-state offsets allowed into the program, the fewer air quality benefits we can expect to experience.  More than 60 scientific, health, labor, environmental, faith, social justice, and civic organizations stand behind the bill to limit offsets because they realize it will mean less pollution and more business for California and they know that local communities will benefit from green jobs and cleaner air.

Consumers and ratepayers will eventually end up paying for offsets, or for emission reductions here in the state.

As someone who represents the consumers in my district, I want to make sure that we get our money’s worth for our global warming policies.

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