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Q&A: Assemblywoman Fran Pavley PDF Print E-mail
Written by PT Editors   
Thursday, 05 October 2006
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With California's clean car legislation of 2002 (AB 1493) under her belt, Assemblywoman Fran Pavley already had solid environmental credentials. But with the Governor's signing of AB 32, the nation's first legislation capping industrial greenhouse gas emissions, she has taken the lead against a gathering environmental threat.

PT: Most people have a good idea of what this bill aims to accomplish, but few people know what it took to draft such an ambitious piece of legislation. What can you tell us about the process?

Pavley: Interestingly enough, I introduced the bill back in December of 2004, when it was focused on expanding the reporting of the California registry to include all different major contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. It would have developed the protocols not only for utilities but all other stationary sources such as cement plants, land fills, etc. So, that was my original bill as it began. Then, in June 2005, the governor issued an executive order at World Environment Day in San Francisco on climate change. He had short, mid and long-term emis-sions targets. Now, this was an executive order—it's not law—but the mid-term target was a 25% reduction by 2020, or a return to 1990 levels. So, I took his mid-term reduction target and looked at the Climate Action Team report and I put that in the bill.

The speaker didn't come on board until spring of 2006. I got the original bill out of the Assembly, and it came back from the Senate with amendments, so I knew I would need some help. We call it "heavy lifting." I got my other emissions bill—1493—through by myself, but I knew what we would be up against. Of course, it helped that the governor was already onboard with the general outline of the bill. When I asked the speaker if he would help me get the bill off the floor in its amended version he said, "I'll do better than that; I'll be your joint author." I should also note that the governor was always on board with the mandatory reporting. We never had to negotiate the 20% reduction, the 1990 levels, the cap on emissions—it was always about implementation.

PT: It must have been helpful that you both had the same point of departure for your negotiations.

Pavley: Yes, it really did. It just ended any unproductive back-and-forth. Of course, it was all documented in the Climate Action Team report, all of the different approaches you can take to reach that 25% reduction. Some of my environmental friends will tell you that 25% isn't enough, but it is a good first step, and it's good that we're taking it. Scientifically though, most people argue that we actually need about a 75% reduction.

PT: It may not have been an enormous step on the scientific scale, but it appears to be a rather large political step.

Pavley: Yes, absolutely. One thing we really need to do too is quantify and incentivize local governments for taking action. In Sonoma County, all 10 cities—47 out of 50 of the elected officials—have adopted more stringent targets than Kyoto. Gavin Newsom of San Francisco is discussing tidal energy and several other options. My home city of Santa Monica is doing incredible things as well. So, I see this almost as more of a grassroots movement. Individuals and cities are the primary actors, much more so than the state and certainly more than the federal government. And it's not just California, and it's not just in the "blue" states. Salt Lake City, Austin, Texas—the list goes on and on. I was part of a video conference last month with legislators from Illinois, and they have a long list of bills they'll be introducing in January pertaining to climate change.

PT: When the bill was in committee and being debated on the floor, what types of compromises were being pushed by the opposition?

Pavley: It depends. There were some people who just wanted to kill it, or effectively kill it by making it voluntary. The chamber of commerce and the oil companies would fall in that category. But even one of the lobbyists for the chamber stood up in a policy committee on the last night of debate and said, in a resigned kind of tone, "AB 32 is about the transition to the new economy." And I thought, "He's got it. It's about clean technologies and alternative fuels." I just thought that was fascinating because he just summed up very well where this bill could end up pushing us.

I would say that the business community wanted to see more market-based mechanisms. That would be emissions-credit trading and things of that sort, which will be examined by the Air Resources Board very closely. California first has to have reporting to establish a baseline, however; you can't trade if you can't quantify it. Well, no other states have mandatory reporting, so the obvious question is, "Who are you trading with?" California might be big enough to trade within itself, but we don't know yet if that's going to be workable.

On the other side, there was some concern from the environmental justice community. Because of the trading provision, they worried that power plants and other polluters would be expanded in some regions disproportionately. Also, some on the environmental side wanted an accelerated timetable. 2020 seems a long way off when we see the accelerated impact of global warming all over the world already. Things seem to be happening a lot more quickly than anyone ever envisioned. Most of us thought that it would be a 50-100 year problem, but it's immediate. I just got back from Iceland, and in speaking with people there, it's an immediate problem.

PT: A piece of legislation as ambitious as this one is bound to have its challenges in implementation. What do you foresee as the biggest hurdles that lie ahead?

Pavley: It will be challenging to determine—for each stationary sector—what type of contribution they would have to make, because each sector doesn't have an across the board 20% reduction. Some are going to be able to do more than others. Maybe the cement plants will only be good for a 5% reduction, but others will do better. Being able to come up with—in just a couple of years—the amount that each industry will be responsible for is going to be a real challenge. But we'll be able to do it.

PT: Are there any incentive mechanisms for industries to go beyond their targets?

Pavley: No, none other than the trading mechanism. Some of the more progressive businesses that are already reducing their greenhouse gas emissions—like PG&E and the Silicon Valley Leadership Board—got on board because they were already reducing their carbon footprint. If they get involved in trading and they've already reached their target, they can then make additional reductions and then sell those credits to other businesses. At the end of the day, they're not only helping the environment, but also their bottom line. It's a business incentive to do the right thing.

PT: So, what's the next step?

Pavley: Now the real work begins! With AB 1493, there were no targets and it was much more vague. We kicked it over to the Air Resources Board and asked them what we could achieve and then we kind of backed into the numbers. This one is in statute though. The challenge when you're the first state to implement it is that you can't work from a template. The good thing is that once we do it, it will be easier for other states to follow.

PT: Any chance the governor will give up one of his Hummers?

Pavley: Well, he's already converted one of them to hydrogen; I've seen it.

PT: Assemblywoman, thank you for your time.


Assemblywoman Fran Pavley represents California's 41st Assembly District in Southern California. She serves as Chair of the Budget Committee on Resources and is a member of the Budget, Education, Transportation, and Water Parks and Wildlife Committees.




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