In California, fossil fuel interest groups are sponsoring legislation that appears to mimic the approach of model legislation released by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2013.
California Assembly Bill 1763 (AB 1763) would require the California Energy Commission (CEC) to develop a state energy plan for 2030 and 2050 that “promotes economic growth, [and] ensures reliable, sustainable, and affordable energy…” That language is similar to ALEC’s model legislation, “The Energy Affordability and Reliability Act”, which calls on states to “evaluate the economic impact, reliability, and other objectives in decisions affecting electricity supplies” and “encourage affordable energy supplies…” While AB 1763 does not copy ALEC’s model policy verbatim, it is important to note that even ALEC recognizes that the model policies [.pdf] “will need to be slightly modified to specifically address [a] state’s needs.”
AB 1763 was initially sponsored by Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE), a coalition that includes multiple fossil fuel interests. CARE members include the Western States Petroleum Association (who counts Chevron as a member), California Independent Oil Marketers Association, DeWitt Petroleum, GT Petroleum, the California Trucking Association, the California Business Roundtable, and others. But recently, Assemblymember Henry T. Perea’s (D-Fresno) staff reported that the California Business Roundtable (CBRT) is the sponsor of AB 1763. Both CARE and CBRT share several members, have strong connections to each other, and have some of the same member companies as ALEC. CBRT members include Chevron, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Sempra Energy, which are members of ALEC, have access to ALEC’s model legislation, and can draw on the model legislation to develop language for bills they sponsor.
The fossil fuel interests sponsoring this legislation are likely concerned about California’s climate regulations, which the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has already set carbon emissions targets for 2020. In May 2014, CARB released an update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan setting an ambitious carbon pollution reduction target for 2050 and signaled the need for a mid-term target, likely in 2030. The future targets for climate pollution reduction could have a major impact on the use of fossil fuels in the state of California, and AB 1763 specifically calls for the CEC to develop plans for 2030 and 2050.
California legislators should be cautious of mandating the CEC to develop an energy plan based on legislative language that is backed by fossil fuel special interests. In developing and implementing AB32, the CARB has coordinated with numerous state agencies (California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, and CalISO) and has studied (and will continue to study) the economic impact of California’s global warming law. The legislature should allow the California Air Resources Board to develop its plan for future climate pollution reduction targets prior to mandating the creation of a CEC energy plan. Furthermore, AB32 and CARB’s updated Scoping Plan already calls for further economic analysis (see Section VI [.pdf] of the plan). In short, mandating the creation of an energy plan before knowing the specifics of CARB’s future climate regulations is putting the cart before the horse.
Because AB 1763 is connected to ALEC members and appears to mimic ALEC model legislation, the California legislature should move cautiously. While we believe that California should develop a comprehensive energy plan that moves the state towards a cleantech future, slanted studies backed by fossil fuel special interests are not the path forward for California. The legislature should allow the California Air Resources Board (in coordination with other agencies) develop future climate regulations before mandating that the California Energy Commission create an energy plan for 2030 and 2050.