Defending California’s Climate Change Program

Climate Change - young girl holding out a globe.

Global warming and disruptive climate change pose great risks for California. Climate change will result in more frequent and more intense forest fires, more air pollution and deadly heat waves, a significant reduction in the snowpack and state water supplies, sea level rise and erosion along California's long coastline, and billions of dollars in damage to our agricultural, tourism, recreation, and other industries.

Climate change presents serious environmental justice concerns because its impacts will fall disproportionately on our most vulnerable residents – children, the elderly, and communities already suffering from pollution.

The Attorney General is a leader in the State's efforts to fight global warming and promote a clean, lower-carbon economy. The Attorney General’s Office, representing state agencies and acting independently in the name of the People:

  • Successfully defended – and will continue to defend – the State's landmark clean cars laws.
  • Has challenged President Trump’s ongoing efforts to delay or roll back measures that reduce greenhouse gas pollution, such as the Clean Power Plan, the Oil and Gas Sector Methane Rule and numerous energy efficiency rules, as well as measures that protect our public lands and ensure a fair return for taxpayers when private interest extract resources from those lands. See Fighting Federal Rollbacks
  • Through comments and litigation, ensures that local governments take account of climate change and plan for a more sustainable future for all members of the community. [See California Environmental Quality Act]
  • Defends the Air Resources Board (ARB) in challenges to its landmark carbon and greenhouse gas reduction scoping plan and regulations, including:

    The Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS)

    The Low Carbon Fuel Standard is a landmark regulatory effort to reduce the carbon content of all transportation fuel used in California, requiring at least a ten percent reduction in carbon intensity of fuel by the year 2020.

    The Attorney General currently is defending against a challenge to the State’s innovative Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) brought by trade associations representing oil and ethanol producers and oil refiners. At the end of 2011, a federal trial court issued an order blocking enforcement of the LCFS, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted California's motion for a stay of the trial court's order, which allowed the LCFS to stay in place uninterrupted. In September 2013,, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision, ruling in favor of ARB and rejecting on several of plaintiffs' claims. Read the Opinion, pdf. The case is now back in the trial court for resolution of the plaintiffs' remaining claims. Thanks in large part to the work of the Attorney General, the LCFS is now in its [fifth] year of successful operation.

    That success inspired Oregon to adopt a similar law. The Oregon law is now facing a related attack, which the Attorney General is assisting in its defending

    The Cap and Trade Program

    The Cap and Trade program is a cornerstone of CARB’s efforts to implement AB 32 to reach the target of getting to 1990 emission levels of GHGs by 2020. The program applies to the largest emitters in the state, reaching approximately 85% of total statewide GHG emissions.

    The Attorney General has successfully defended the Cap and Trade program in two separate lawsuits. One lawsuit challenged provisions in the program that allow a limited amount of a party’s compliance obligations to be met with offset credits (verified GHG emission reductions from sources not covered by the program). The other lawsuit challenges one aspect of the program’s method for distributing allowances (permits to emit GHGs), specifically ARB’s use of auctions to distribute a portion of such allowances (the remainder are distributed by other means, including free distribution). The Attorney General has prevailed at the trial court and court of appeal, and in June 2017, the State Supreme Court denied plaintiffs petitions for review, effectively bringing the case to a close.