Calif. cap-and-trade plan suffers legal setback

By Bob Egelko  |  SFGate / San Francisco Chronicle  |  Link to article

California’s attempt to implement its landmark global warming law with a market-oriented “cap-and-trade” system of pollution credits hit a snag Monday with a judge’s ruling that the state had not looked hard enough at alternatives.

The ruling by Judge Ernest Goldsmith of San Francisco Superior Court does not prohibit the state Air Resources Board from adopting cap and trade or explicitly require that officials delay its scheduled implementation next year. But Goldsmith said the board must first analyze other options, such as a tax on carbon emissions, and explain why it did not choose them.

The state agency “seeks to create a fait accompli by premature establishment of a cap-and-trade program before alternatives can be exposed to public comment and properly evaluated,” Goldsmith said in Friday’s ruling, which the state and environmental group that sued over the plan received Monday.

The board will appeal, said spokesman Stanley Young. He expressed dismay at the scope of the ruling, which requires the board to conduct an environmental review and invite public comment before taking further steps to implement the law.

Measures that would be put on hold apparently include California’s first-in-the-nation limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, Young said.