Bill to clarify process for obtaining carbon offsets advances

June 19th, 20123:51 pm @


SACRAMENTO — Under California’s market-based approach for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, businesses will have two methods for buying ways to produce more emissions than they have been allotted.

They can buy additional credits at a cap-and-trade auction that will debut this year or buy carbon offsets from a third party that will do such things as plant trees in forests.

With the rules still emerging on which offset practices will qualify, environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and business groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce have united behind proposed legislation that would require the Air Resources Board to engage in a transparent process as it evaluates which practices will qualify for offset credits.

With such united support behind him, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, got his urgency bill, AB 2563, approved by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on Monday without dissent.

“The process for qualifying offsets has lacked transparency,” Smyth said. “It’s important for the Legislature to be engaged.”

As part of the cap-and-trade program, a regulated business can buy offsets to meet up to 8 percent of its emissions compliance obligation. Four protocols for offsets have been established: planting trees in West Coast forests; planting trees in urban areas; funding livestock projects that will reduce methane emissions from cow and pig manure; and financing activities to eliminate ozone-depleting substances such as refrigerants and solvents.

Other practices will be considered, but each will have to be evaluated and protocols established to ensure the carbon offsets to be obtained can be quantified and verified.

Smyth’s bill would require the Air Resources Board to develop before Jan. 1 a process for reviewing other potential offset practices that would include a published schedule, a system to track the progress of individual reviews online, an explanation of the criteria and a stated point of contact within the agency.

The board took no position on the bill, but a spokeswoman said all its objectives will likely be addressed in a staff report scheduled to be issued this summer.

All elements of the cap-and-trade program are certain to attract increased public attention in November when the board has its first auction of emissions credits. A practice exercise for the auction is scheduled for August.

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