With Democrats divided, Assembly rejects a plan to extend California's cap-and-trade program

An effort to extend the life of California's landmark climate change program failed in the last hour of a long Assembly session on Thursday, a sign of how the program's fate has divided Democratic lawmakers.

Assembly Bill 378 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) would have added 10 years to the life of the state's cap-and-trade program, under which greenhouse gas emissions are limited and businesses pay for pollution permits that exceed the limit. The current program's legal authority runs until 2020.

The bill also would have added something new to the state's climate change efforts: new restrictions on air pollutants, including possible limits on individual industrial facilities.

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Garcia said her bill "meaningfully integrates cap and trade with air quality," and represented a significant step forward for low-income communities in the state's climate change agenda.

"We need to assure that our success is shared equitably across all of California," she said during Thursday night's floor debate.

But the Assembly's business-aligned "mod" Democrats refused to support the bill. So too did Republicans who recently embraced a renewal of the cap-and-trade program but disagreed with its linkage to air pollution beyond that strictly linked to greenhouse gases, a move championed by environmental justice groups.

Further complicating the politics is an insistence by Gov. Jerry Brown that the legislation requires a two-thirds vote in both legislative houses, given the legal fight over pollution credits being viewed as government fees.

"That requires a two-thirds vote," Brown said in an interview with The Times on Wednesday. "If we jettison, gut or emasculate our cap and trade, that will do damage to our climate leadership."

Lawmakers are expected to take the issue up again this summer before adjourning for the year in mid-September.

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