On Wednesday, a new bill that would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions spread by wildfires in California was announced amid a flurry of environmental executive orders, ordinances, and protections being passed in the state.
Wildfires over cap and trade
Authored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Fairfield), his as yet undesignated bill is to be introduced in December. The parameters of the bill are not fully known, but they are expected to greatly shift how California will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future. The bill will focus on the greatest carbon emission producer in the state, wildfires, rather than more traditional carbon emitters such as vehicles and power plants.
The bill would involve the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and would most likely reprioritize funding and resources from the current emissions trading systems, also known as cap and trade, to reducing wildfires in the state. As the Assemblyman noted in his press release, cap and trade projects release around 45 million metric tons of carbon a year, while, according to the U. S. Geological Survey, the 2018 wildfire season in California released 68 million metric tons of carbon, equivalent to the release of carbon emissions for an entire years worth of electricity for the state.
“While I believe the work the CARB has been doing is laudable, we need to shift gears and address the main cause of carbon emissions in California, and right now, that is unquestionably wildfires,” said Assemblyman Frazier on Wednesday. “The data is undeniable and staggering.”
“The science and statistics of the devastation that wildfires are causing are not just limited to the land. These fires are pumping more pollution- far more toxic- than the burning of fossil fuels, and we must take a critical look at how we dedicate our precious financial resources to their reduction. As we know, wildfires are a major contributor to the advancement of global warming.”
Assemblyman Frazier’s announcement came during a week of several carbon-cutting measures and orders were issued by the state. Earlier this week Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order stating that all cars sold in California by 2035 would be zero emission, effectively ending the sale of gasoline powered cars in 15 years, as well as remove many other fossil fuel powered appliances such as those powered by natural gas and propane. New protections for the Joshua tree were also announced on Tuesday, effectively making it a protected species and ending numerous developments in the Southern deserts of California while also greenlighting numerous solar energy projects to reduce carbon emissions. Many environmental justice laws are also expected to come into effect this month across cities and counties in the state.
“It was perfect timing with everything going on,” noted San Diego-based environmental lawyer Keith Hibbert to the Globe. “The Governor, and really the state in General, upped environmentally friendly laws, and these wildfires have reached the point of people reaching for solutions. It’s no coincidence he announced it now for greatest effect.”
A rehash of previous bills by Senator Moorlach
Frazier’s proposed bill has already received criticism for being nearly identical to bills previously authored by Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa.
Senator Moorlach has been attempting for years to mitigate wildfire damage and curb greenhouse gas emissions. In an e-mail conversation with Senator Moorlach’s office, a Moorlach staffer pointed out that Frazier’s bill comes directly from three of Moorlach’s attempted bills from 2016 to 2018: SB 584, SB 535, and SB 1463.
SB 535 had directly tied carbon emissions to wildfires and called on CARB to begin monitoring them and recording information on the releases. However, the bill failed to reach an Assembly vote. SB 1463 was even closer to Frazier’s bill, sharing many details, like shifting cap and trade over to wildfire prevention by adding better management to wildlands and forested areas. However this failed in the Senate. Even Moorlach’s previous SB 1463 in 2016 had been vetoed by then Governor Brown for simply wanting more local control of fire hazard areas around utility lines.
“In fact, several of his statements are almost identical to statements on our fact sheets,” noted a staffer for Senator Moorlach, to the Globe.
Assemblyman Frazier’s office did not send comment back to the Globe regarding the similarities between the bills.
Frazier’s bill is expected to be introduced to the Assembly this December.