Sunday, April 16, 2017

Establishing Cap-and-Trade: The Climate of Subversion

[Todayʻs post recalls some of the earliest history of AB 32 - The Global Warming Solutions Act - and the conflicts surrounding both its passage as well as its implementation. More than simply a historic footnote, this history would eventually connect to the early policy discussions inside the Trump regime, including Congress, and the direction of ʻcontrolsʻ established on major industrial sources]

On September 27, 2006 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the California Global Warming Solutions Act into law, to impose a graduated cap on emissions of specific greenhouse gases; and, to allow those facilities responsible for such emissions to utilize market mechanisms to achieve the required reductions. Despite the Legislatureʻs extensive, time-honored tradition of crafting laws where words had specific meanings, the Solutions Act left considerable uncertainty as to the degree to which Californiaʻs climate change policy would be governed by regulatory controls that typically spelled-out who was responsible for reducing toxic emissions, in what amounts, the penalties for failures, and enforcement actions to including citizen ability to file legal actions against corporations… all versus market mechanisms.

At a time when climate scientists increasingly insisted that everyone needed to move decisively to quell the fossil-fueled storms of the 21st century, California was embarking on an uncertain path. Amidst celebrations by the stateʻs actor-governor, Hollywood stars and politicians proclaiming Californiaʻs new law, many public interest advocates wondered how many of the same corporations that had for so long been responsible for the largest market failure in history, were now going to be a part of a market “solution” to global climate change? Community activists in Los Angeles described the recent history of emissions trading as a disaster where public health was sacrificed amidst supposed benefits, far outside their neighborhoods. In places such as Wilmington, California, with its prominent oil refinery, activists wondered about the consequences for their community when Shell began trading emissions credits. In addition to concerns about greenhouse gases, They asked, how could emissions trading curb the use of other pollutants affecting the health of nearby communities?

Assessing the ‘trading’ provision of cap-and-trade in the Solutions Act struck many as theater of the absurd. Regulators, business owners, community activists, environmental lawyers, and private sector financial analysts were openly skeptical about the state’s entry into the world of emissions trading. Even though traditional command-and-control regulatory laws had many flaws, as businesses often complained about regulatory paperwork, many noted that AB 32 now required them to be savvy traders in a new commodity market. 

The relationship between the Solutions Act and other California law was by no means a trivial matter. The Golden State had already enacted a multiplicity of laws and regulations severely restricting the release of toxic chemicals into the air, and a larger array of laws placed California on a path toward eliminating fossil fuels as a source of energy in the 21st century. To all outward appearances the authors of the Solutions Act, breezed through the requisite policy committee. Behind the scenes, however, were serious misgivings about an ill-conceived approach whereby many of the same corporations responsible for emitting hazardous substances into the air should then benefit by credits for reducing emissions elsewhere. Over the previous two decades many activists had played a central role in advancing a series of laws placing California, not simply at the forefront of clean air legislation, but more important, placing significant restrictions on the use of fossil fuels in the state energy supply. Were these hard-earned gains to be undone?

As later reported by an high-ranking administrator in one of Cal EPAʻs agencies, Governor Schwarzeneggerʻs political leanings were clear before AB 32 was even signed into law:

“Governor Schwarzenegger and his staff were intent on delaying substantive work on climate mitigation [in order to protect] California industry - major Republican party donors - from any competitive disadvantage. Schwarzenegger wanted it both ways: to be a climate hero and to avoid alienating the business community. Likewise, the Administration made strenuous efforts to steer the draft legislation away from regulation and toward market trading. That put Schwarzenegger in direct conflict with Democratic leaders who insisted on ʻearly action measuresʻ and who strongly preferred direct emission controls. The latter is precisely why the Air Board was given the lead implementation role: it was world renown for adopting ambitious, technology forcing rules. The Administrationʻs counter proposal for a squishy, non-accountable, multi-agency implementation body was soundly rebuffed. The conflict boiled over once the bill was enacted.”

The early ʻtraitsʻ of Californiaʻs Global Warming Solutions Act would reverberate for years to come.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Market Mechanisms for Market Failures: Part I

[In todayʻs posting, we return again to the historic roots of Californiaʻs pollution trading scheme (aka AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act) and the many hard-won regulatory laws that preceded it. This history becomes important as a lens for understanding the contemporary politics of fossil-fuel induced crises, including the current push for deregulation by the Trump regime.]

The rising alarm surrounding air pollution during the 1960s lead to the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The essential mechanism of the Act was to establish limits on the release of harmful air pollutants, which principally affected auto manufacturers, refineries, and heavy industries. The regulatory requirements of the Clean Air Act were largely aimed at technological changes, including filters to remove recognized pollutants and meet air quality standards. “By 1991, however, the Environmental Protection Agency had succumbed to the pressure of lobbyists demanding lax enforcement of the Actʻs rules or regulations associated with expensive emissions equipment. EPA targeted Southern California to test a plan that would potentially increase healthy air while reducing emissions by offsetting the cost of pollution controls ….The pilot project, called Regional Clean Air Incentives Market (RECLAIM) established a system for trading ʻpollution creditsʻ among polluters.”

While the authors of AB 32 pointed to an East Coast emissions trading program to limit CO2 emissions (RGGI) as an illustration of how cap-and-trade might operate, RECLAIM was a much closer approximation to the broad contours of the Solution Act. It is likely that the sponsors of AB 32 did not want to point to RECLAIM for one simple reason: it was “widely regarded as a failure due to the issuance of too many emission credits, resulting in weak prices.” Initiated as one of the earliest programs for emissions trading, RECLAIM faced challenges from the start. “Companies had an incentive to achieve escape routes (e.g., variances granted by local air districts) from caps placed on emissions.”

From its inception,  the Los Angeles Incentives Market (RECLAIM) confronted intensive scrutiny from community-based organizations. Communities were already suspect of the basic premise that pollution trading from oil refineries, rail traffic, and other industrial facilities would not impose an even greater threat to their well-being. Various community groups viewed the entire premise of providing regulatory flexibility to the private sector with a blunt skepticism, particularly regarding the benefits of a pollution-trading scheme designed by those working from office towers in New York, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco. The suggestion that they should join with national environmental groups who had designed AB 32 yielded open hostility among a large number of community-based groups in Los Angeles, “This wouldn’t be the first time that they threw us under the bus!”

Another controversy enveloping the proposed trading scheme related to  
what many public health officials referred to as ʻold scienceʻ versus ʻnew science.ʻ Early trading schemes such as RECLAIM emerged during an era when trading was founded on an already dated characterization of ʻpollutantsʻ as chemical hazards posing principally short-term harms. By the beginning of the 21st century, newly emerging scientific findings included a much broader array of harms, reflected in an expanded set of statutory terms (e.g., neurotoxins, microparticulates, endocrine disruption). Because the harms recognized latent effects impacting multiple generations, sometimes at exceedingly small exposures or other times based only the timing of exposures (i.e., first trimester for reproductive effects) legislative discussions moved from how to manage chemical exposures to a more pointed effort simply to eliminate the commercial production or release of substances posing inherent hazards.

Whereas various federal laws were firmly planted in an older model allowing private sector firms to release uncharacterized chemicals into the environment, public health officials and others conversant with these new scientific findings advanced precautionary approaches in law. By the early 2000s precautionary legislation became especially popular in California, with many calling for the rapid phase-out of various products containing bio-accumulative, biologically disruptive, and other such substances (e.g., mercury, lead, PBDEs). The operating premise for a variety of these laws was to prohibit the production, use and sale of substances posing inherent hazards. Lacking this preventative premise, the framing of the Global Warming Solutions Act, therefore, was instantly contentious.

A fundamental question confronting the Legislature turned on how to construct AB 32 within the framework of existing laws, and pointed to very divergent paths. Inside the Legislature, the question pivoted on whether to incrementally manage the release in a calculus of what was most efficient for business. The new research emerging was predicated on the urgency to eliminate these substances posing known and dramatic threats to human life and civilization extending for centuries into the future.

In the years following the enactment of Californiaʻs Global Warming Solutions Act, the question of whether the State should utilize market mechanisms to address a crisis precipitated by what many economists labeled ʻthe greatest market failureʻ would become a pivotal question. In 2017, the question would become dramatically more significant in the context of President Trumpʻs swiftly adopted agenda to dismantle strict regulatory controls, particularly with respect to any restrictions over fossil fuels.

And for readers who are forgiven for not following the minutia of market mechanisms, one additional event in 2017 yielded one more over-looked commentary on the failure of market mechanisms: the decision by the South Coast Air Quality Management Districtʻs Board to terminate the decades-old regional pollution-trading program: RECLAIM. Sparing readers the interesting details, it is enough to note that one of the Board members, the Honorable Sheila Kuehl, noted that Los Angeles was bringing an end to being gamed by fossil fuel interests; LA would revert to the reliable and certain results achieved by strict regulatory controls over emissions by petroleum refineries and other large emission sources.

I promise to provide a less wonky posting next time!

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Tyranny Larger than Trump

If you have had the opportunity to read even one of the recent editorials by the LA Times, you have likely found yourself re-enchanted with their thoughtful critique of Donald Trump. And if you are like many others around this state, you are even more thrilled with their tone. Without mincing words, the Times calls our newly elected President narcissistic, impulsive, untruthful, and both ignorant about political power and how to wield it effectively.

The Los Angeles Timesʻ attack is unrelenting, reflecting what the editorial writers sense is a surge of popular outrage and opposition by a vast number of Californians. Refreshingly, the Times is unequivocal not simply as a venting of frustrations, but noting that it is time to challenge the new President before things get even worse. The Editorial Board argues that rather than awaiting more 'alternative facts' and the further erosion of democratic institutions, their responsibility is to "lay out our concerns." These are expansive, ranging from the draconian use of federal police forces to deport and worsened livelihoods for millions of our fellow Californians, to the dismantling of health care policies, and an array of policies opposed to many of our most celebrated laws.

As noted by the Timesʻ editors, many Californians feel "uniquely threatened" and harbor a widespread sense of dread for being complicit in creating a place that is now targeted by the Trump regime, his partisans in Congress, and powerful private sector allies. But this is the juncture at which the marvelous editorial series gives too little attention to a much deeper and longer conflict. It may be fair to call Trump a tyrant, but the sources of his tyranny are more than merely his weird persona.

In recent decades many of the same themes of racist, xenophobic, elitist, sexist, and similarly egregious traits have been displayed by other presidents. Even if we can all readily agree that Donald Trump personifies the worst of these qualities, the threats posed by the current regime are much broader. Trump does bring new meaning to the rise of an authoritarian, if not fascistic, state. It is no small matter that his use of power in such a personal way threatens democratic practice in a fashion perhaps unprecedented in our nationʻs history.

I find it difficult to argue with any of the Timesʻ courageous one, not-so-minor point: the origins of problems we confront are much larger than the man now occupying the Oval Office. The case can be made most persuasively by examining what is arguably one of the greatest existential threats to humankind: the distinct prospect that civilization and global ecology will severely damaged by the end of this century. Yet, the approaching cataclysm has a complex history predating 2016 and the current President. Which is not to say that Donald Trump will not make things spectacularly worse. But a more careful scrutiny of our predicament points out that focusing exclusively on Trumpʻs failures as a leader is largely a distraction.

Trumpʻs distractions move our collective scrutiny away from an enduring coalition of private interests, including some of the nationʻs wealthiest families and largest corporations. For one over-arching problem - fossil-fueled damages - the activities of the oil industry, its lobbyists and corporate allies have been documented for pursuing policies that have undermined clean alternative fuels while discounting the threats to surrounding communities, workers, and the environment. As if these negative features were not enough, the record of destruction extends to the systematic erosion of democratic institutions and practices as evinced by their out-sized role in the political process.

As reflected in the stories of public interest advocates contained in The War on California, the abhorrent and disastrous policies personified by President Trump have many linkages to earlier regimes and powerful political forces. We may discover, too late, that ʻsolvingʻ for the Donald does too little to address the other threats to democracy, society, and the environment. California, in this regard, holds an especially vital, some might say pivotal, role in preparing a political campaign aimed not simply at the small man seeking a balcony, but the many sympathetic officials who have been hard at work for many decades to defeat the works of public interest activists across the nation. 

The record of these conflicts are recorded in dozens of legislative measures stretching across decades. While covering a range of topics, there is one especially intriguing common theme bridging many of these struggles: the battle between private and public interests to control both politics and the economy in the Golden State. These are themes I will continue to explore in the coming weeks.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Politics of Trading

[Todayʻs post follows from the last posted conversation with my brother, an expert on financial matters and our discussion in 2006 regarding a legislative proposal that would become Californiaʻs export model for addressing climate change: cap-and-trade]

"Casey, I've got a question." It was another of what were becoming more frequent calls to sound-out a private sector perspective on my political crisis du jour.  ”Go ahead” Casey answered, “What's the latest from the temple of doom?"  

I explained the outlines of the global warming bill, ending with a question about market mechanisms: "What do you make of the use of such an approach, especially emissions trading, since this seems to be where the bill is headed?"

"Bruce, Bruce, Bruce.....what's the matter?  Why haven't you given yourself over to the market?  It is a wonderful faith-based system and it makes it easier for you to sleep at night." Casey then walked through how various of his financial wizardry conducted on behalf of major corporations typically relied on a contract to specify the obligations and responsibilities for both parties.  

"So let me get this straight; you're saying this is a perfectly acceptable way to construct a program for reducing greenhouse gases, yet...?" Before I completed the question Casey interrupted, "No, I said that in corporate-land I have helped to define the financial terms for contracts. But in many instances the contract has followed a prime directive: if things turn sour, make certain that the other party is screwed to the wall. One of the wonderful parts of financial engineering is that virtually no one understands how any of this works. So my question to you is a simple one: who in the Legislature understands trading?  Or better yet, ask the legislators and their supporters if they can explain it to you in more than a couple of sound bites." Casey, not quite done, was saving the best for last.

"...Oh, and there is the second part of working with contracts. For all of the contracts that I have been party to, we would typically write up something about 1,000 pages long, just to make certain that we have a very thorough understanding of where this agreement will take us and, most especially, a very clear statement about when the contract has not been fulfilled, how it will be enforced and, most especially, what we get when the contract doesn't have the outcome that we have agreed on.”  

“...So, you’ve got to ask some additional questions” continued Casey. ”First, what does trading mean in this bill?  Second, what happens when greenhouse gases aren't reduced over some period of time?  And third, how extensive is the contract language?” "Well,” I responded, “the bill does not have any specific contract language as such. It is simply a vague statement regarding the use of market mechanisms to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gases."

"Well, whoopee! is all I can say," Casey laughed. "I know which side of that deal I want to be on....and it certainly isn't backing the people of California! ...By the way, let me know when this bill is going to the Governor so I can start shorting the state. Remember when Enronʻs traders giggled as California's bureaucrats came to the floor to make energy contract purchases?  This will be even better!"

I ended the phone conversation wondering if some of the materials I had used years earlier with groups of students at UC Berkeley might have prompted a better basis for considering the value of emissions trading among legislators and staff. A particularly thoughtful author, Tom Athanasiou, prominent in my syllabus, argued that solving global warming involved more than simply a re-jiggering of technologies to capture fugitive gases. Instead, the task required more fundamental changes.

“If greenhouse theory is correct, and the preponderance of evidence indicates that it is correct, humanity must drastically reduce its use not only of methane and CFCs (greenhouse gases), but of coal and oil as well, even though such a reduction means that the entire planetary economy must be re-structured -- to a degree that implies a fundamental break with the energy economy that has underlain capitalism from its earliest days. This is not a matter of a few technical fixes, of isolated reforms to an economy that can remain essentially unaltered.”

Sitting at my desk inside the capitol, I wondered if the architects of cap-and-trade really thought that cap-and-trade was an answer to the fossil-fueled threats of the 21st century. Or was this merely subterfuge; a political device for obscuring the urgent necessity to restructure one of the worldʻs major economies?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Californiaʻs Pollution Trading Scheme: Chapt 1

[to discover the exciting outcome of this weekʻs earlier post, you will have to await the publication of The War on California in the next few weeks; in the meantime, todayʻs post introduces the story about what will become the stateʻs most infamous ʻSolutionʻ to fossil-fueled climate crises.]

“Whatʻs that?” I queried of my fellow all-female consultants as we emerged from yet another meeting, as a van adjacent to the capitol’s south entrance deposited a bulky item on the well-manicured grounds.

“Itʻs the governorʻs podium,” my colleague responded. “See the govʻs seal on the front?”
“Yes, I see the podium, but whatʻs he carrying in his other hand?”  

Approaching the curb, we looked more closely. “Itʻs his platform!” She responded to my puzzled expression. “You know, the wooden box he stands on to appear larger than life when towering behind the podium.”

“You have got to be kidding me!”

“Come on Bruce, itʻs a Hollywood thing. For Schwarzenegger, this is all political theater.” As we entered the marbled halls, we were laughing. “Oh itʻs theater alright, theater of the absurd.”  

Within days my attention turned to the first in a series of broadly outlined discussions about what might appear in the proposal being finalized for hearing before my committee. The bill, eventually celebrated as one of California’s premiere environmental laws -- the Global Warming Solutions Act, popularly known as AB 32 advanced a program supporters referred to as “cap-and-trade;” something that its detractors would later refer to with as Californiaʻs pollution trading scheme. The basic architecture required regulatory agencies, including the California Air Resources Board to set limits on the largest emitters of greenhouse gases combined with a vaguely stated trading program.

This bill would contain an essential flexibility for these large emitters that made AB 32 very different from Californiaʻs classic regulatory approach. Beginning with a benchmark of total greenhouse gas emissions, a declining cap for these emissions would be imposed on the largest emission sources - designed to decrease total emissions to an earlier baseline - in this case, the earlier and lower 1990 measurement of total statewide emissions. Large emission sources, facilities such as refineries or energy plants owned by very large corporations, would be allowed to trade emission credits in an auction with other facilities not utilizing all their own credits. The concept held that as the cap on emissions decreased over time, credits would become more expensive, driving up the price of greenhouse gas pollutants. Companies would have various avenues to figure out how to deal with pollution, but eventually all emitters would be compelled to utilize less costly and less polluting alternatives.

From the start I found the billʻs title misleading, given that an array of California laws already addressed various facets of global warming. With the availability of plentiful regulatory mechanisms, why was these members of the Assembly so enchanted with trading mechanisms as a means for addressing the climate crisis? I would slowly awaken as to why the billʻs emphasis on a trading mechanism continually nagged at me. soon learn about a central feature that made this approach so distinctive.
During an early meeting with supporters, tentative language circulated for a bill being drafted by the Legislatureʻs attorneys that appeared to be suspiciously like the work of the larger environmental groups in Washington, D.C. (and quite unlike the product of Californiaʻs environmental advocates). One telltale characteristic was that language crafted by many of Californiaʻs environmental attorneys typically reflected an obsession with fine details, whereas proposals from inside the Beltway as well in Congress often proceeded with broad provisions. For many of us inside Californiaʻs capitol, the Congressional model of drafting overly broad provisions in law only invited challenges and delays by powerful opposing interests.   

Before launching legislation in D.C., one could first road test it in a state legislature. The main advocates in D.C. were laying the groundwork in California for a piece to follow as the national model, based on what they hoped would be the California law. A centerpiece of the bill used "market mechanisms" to define how global warming would be addressed, with the use of a trading scheme. Although trading had been used at that time in a program in Southern California, AB 32 advocates argued that theirs was a distinctive architecture.

At this point, as typical when working in the arena of concepts without benefit of actual language or empirical data, I resorted to a sophisticated technology honed by staff over many years. I picked up the phone to survey my ever-expanding universe of informal advisors stretching from journalists and physicians to regulatory scientists and activists in Los Angeles to gain from their deep knowledge. I was especially interested in the perspective of one who, over many years, was among the elite wizards responsible for pumping up the quarterly statements of major global firms through use of financial instruments. The source, of course, was my brother.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Slippery Slopes and the War on California

If you missed yesterdayʻs editorial in the Los Angeles Times, you will learn that the War on California also contains a corresponding theme: Californiaʻs War on Trump.  The editorial is striking not simply because it vigorously takes the newly elected President to task in a devastating personal attack, but also because it is a call to arms. While the Times stops short of calling on citizens to engage in mass mobilization and protest, perhaps only because we are still in the first 100 days of his regime. For the tens of millions of Californians assaulted by Trumpians, the Times brings the welcome relief of a counter-attack on this ʻdishonest presidentʻ.

The weakness with the Timesʻ editorial, however, is its emphasis on a single individual in the White House. The paperʻs essay acknowledges that had Cruz or Rubio prevailed over Trump, we might be facing largely similar problems with regard to the treatment of women, immigrants, workers, and the poor. The difference between Trump and other potential leaders, according to the Times, is one of degree. Donald Trump, the argument goes, is dangerously crazy, whereas his colleagues are merely crazy. The point may be well taken with respect to the next war and the potential for nuclear disasters; but what about other global conflicts, including fossil-fueled crises threatening the planetʻs survival?
Are the actions of those who might replace Trump an acceptable alternative?

In the world of environmental protection, news stories often offer clear divisions: those working to protect and save fragile habitat and vanishing critters and those bent on their destruction. Such narratives have an immediate attractiveness, especially in the era of Trump & Co. One problem with such descriptions, however, appears in the arena of over-lapping circles - areas where the two approaches overlap. This grey colored section between the black and white of opposed interests is sometimes defined as the ʻwin-winʻ territory, a place where compromises can be reached and policies advanced benefiting otherwise opposed interests. It is also a terrain known for slippery slopes; a place where the public awaken one day, saying "How in the world did we arrive at this disastrous spot!"

At a moment in history when the fate of the planet and human civilization seems precariously balanced on the edge of global cataclysms, the political terrain has grown exceedingly more slippery. At first glance the choice between Californiaʻs climate policies or those of an unstable fellow in the White House seem obvious. There are, however, grey areas between the two that are ripe for exploiting what will surely be presented as ʻwin-win solutionsʻ - but which others will just as surely awaken one day, saying ʻHow did we find ourselves hurdling toward the abyss?ʻ To appreciate the potential dangers, we might begin with some recent political history. And what better place to start than Californiaʻs own actor/leader and the Golden Stateʻs ʻSolutionʻ to global warming.
"Today, California will be a leader in the fight against global warming... I say the debate is over. We know the science, we see the threat and we know the time for action is now." The statement, issued by one of Californiaʻs governors, suggested a bold plan to address a steadily advancing crisis - climate change.

Serving as a primary leader for the stateʻs Republicans, this popular governor immediately placed himself at odds with President George Bush, who steadfastly avoided the issue, including his refusal to join 150-plus nations from around the globe in the most recent effort to devise an international accord -- the Kyoto Protocols. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was delivering his plan for addressing global warming to open a United Nations World Environment Day Conference in San Francisco.

In making his announcement, Schwarzenegger issued an executive order directing the secretary of California's Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the state's emissions of greenhouse gases to 2000 levels by 2010; 1990 levels by 2020; and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, as the outline of a long-term program. Despite a mountain of scientific studies documenting a disrupted climate, the main directive from President Bush sought to undermine Californiaʻs recently enacted law to lessen engine emissions. The question of whether such a program would require too little escaped notice because it would be progress, seemingly, to launch any plan. However, in a setting where words and details mattered, the Governorʻs plan was about to hit a speed bump.
Within weeks of Governor Schwarzenegger’s announcement launching a project to address global warming, an attempt was made to introduce a legislative proposal mirroring the broad strokes of the Governorʻs executive order. A member of the Assembly came to the Senate with a reputed agreement that the Governor would sign global warming legislation into law. The catch, typical to agreements reached late in the session, necessitated the Legislature to agree to a kind of blank check, largely circumventing reviews by policy committees...and the public. Last minute agreements of this sort often employed a technique known as ʻgut and amend,ʻ taking legislation introduced earlier in the legislative session on one topic, later inserting entirely new language.

Few involved, if anyone, had the opportunity to analyze and reflect on the consequences of a proposed ‘gut’ or change. In certain instances, such as after a natural disaster, gut and amend served a valuable purpose: to act with the utmost urgency in the event of a crisis. Unfortunately, gut and amends too often were invented crises employed by powerful lobbyists as a device for circumventing more intensive public scrutiny. Whereas Congress and even many states passed measures without the benefit of even allowing sufficient time for representatives to read measures requiring their vote, Californiaʻs Legislature exercised a very strong tradition based on an extensive review by professional staff as well as allowing for public review and comment.

Behind the Governorʻs directive to urgently address global warming lurked a more devilish question: who was responsible for setting the earth on fire in the first place? On this point, the Governor seemed to suggest that we all shared a responsibility for fixing the problem. The tension for many veterans of the Legislature involved their belief that a key ingredient in crafting ʻgoodʻ law required everyone -- especially the general public -- time to digest what a legal proposal meant. Leaving vital details solely in the hands any governor was an approach many professional staff referred to by a simple and pejorative shorthand: faith-based governing.

Nearing the close of the 2005 legislative session, I was asked to join a meeting of the chair of my committee along with two other legislators to discuss a possible gut-and-amend. In the absence of any written draft, the proposal was presented as a broadly conceptual one: allowing a bill broadly encapsulating Governor Schwarzeneggerʻs executive order on global warming to advance through the Senateʻs Environmental Quality Committee. The assembly member was emphatic in her presentation; here was a golden and urgent opportunity for the Legislature to act, we should not pass up this matter of crucial importance to the public. Almost as an afterthought, the anxious legislator mentioned a minor caveat: since the specific language was still being finalized by the Governorʻs people, the Committee would only be able to vote on the broad generalities of the bill. 

In the closed-door meeting with the three legislators, the chair then turned to me, asking for my perspective on the proposed hearing for what was the Governorʻs bill on climate change....

please return on Wednesday to read the next installment.......and thank you!