What does Proposition 26 mean for climate change?
Given how low the chances of congressional action on climate change are now, state efforts like California's climate bill, AB 32, are going to pick up a lot of the slack. AB 32 requires the state to cut yearly emissions by 174 million metric tons, which translates into a national reduction of over 7 percent, so a successful effort to repeal or weaken it could have major national implications.
Proposition 23, which would have effectively repealed AB 32, lost substantially last week. But Proposition 26, which would require a two-thirds vote for the state legislature or local governments to impose new regulatory fees, passed. Given that imposing pollution fees will likely be necessary for AB 32 to work, some environmentalists were worried that Prop 26 could derail the bill indirectly.
Proposition 26 redraws the line between taxes and fees under California law. It states that it applies to “any change in state statute” that occurs after January 1, 2010. The Legislature passed AB 32 and the Governor signed it into law in 2006, well before Proposition 26 comes into effect. Although AB 32 implementation is ongoing, CARB’s authority to impose fees on polluters under AB 32 will not require “any change in state statute” post January 1, 2010. Accordingly, Proposition 26 does not change CARB’s authority to move forward with implementing AB 32.
What's more, as Jonathan Zasloff argues here, it's doubtful that courts would interpret the proposition as intended to interfere with AB 32, given that the same voters who approved it overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 23. Climate hawks have plenty of problems to worry about, but Proposition 26 does not appear to be one of them.
Dylan Matthews is a student at Harvard and a researcher at The Washington Post.
| November 10, 2010; 10:38 AM ET
Categories: Climate Change
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