Friday, September 01, 2006

California passes greenhouse gas bill

California passes greenhouse gas bill
By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California made a bold move to curb global warming by passing on Thursday the first bill in the United States to cap man-made greenhouse gas emissions, an action state leaders hope will be copied across the country.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, frustrated by lack of action from fellow Republican President George W. Bush on reducing heat-trapping gases, teamed up with the state's Democratic majority on the landmark bill.

The bill cleared its last legislative hurdle in the State Assembly in a 46-31 vote, with opposition from Schwarzenegger's own Republican Party. The Senate voted to pass it 23-14 late on Wednesday. Schwarzenegger plans to sign it next month.

The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 puts California at the forefront of the fight against climate change along with the European Union, and increases pressure on Washington to impose mandatory caps rather than the voluntary measures favored by Bush.

California aims to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a cut of around 25 percent. The biggest sources of heat-trapping gases, such as power plants and cement makers, will be required to report their emissions.

Bush pulled the United States out of the 160-nation Kyoto Protocol in 2001 on the grounds that the mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases would hurt the economy and wrongly excluded developing nations.

Assembly Speaker and co-sponsor Fabian Nunez appealed to California's traditional leadership on the environment and asked the legislature to take "an opportunity to be bold."


"Members, this is a bipartisan bill; it's a bipartisan bill that has good corporate citizens supporting it," said Nunez, a Los Angeles Democrat who engaged in tense talks with Schwarzenegger's administration for weeks.

Republicans argued the bill was "not fully cooked" and echoed concerns in the business community that it would drive away companies to less regulated places like China.

While Schwarzenegger will use his good record on the environment in his November re-election bid, Nunez has said the Democrats hope to roll it out to other states and make it a hot election issue for the 2008 presidential race.

"We've reached a tipping point in the fight against global warming," said Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"The whole world has been watching to see whether California passes this bill, and now the world will watch as California takes the lead in developing a clean energy market."

Although California is a pace-setter on the environment, it is also the world's 12th-largest producer of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and faces potentially serious concerns over its drinking water, coastline, agriculture and air quality because of the rise in temperatures.

(Additional reporting by Jenny O'Mara in Sacramento)