Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
September 12, 2015

  • Gov. Brown wanted new carbon emission curbs
  • Resistance to auto fuel cuts forced him to back down
  • Republicans blocked governor’s tax increases

As the final fortnight of the 2015 legislative session began, Capitol handicappers were predicting a concluding cascade of landmark legislation.

The Legislature did take significant steps on medical marijuana regulation and the right of terminally ill patients to end their lives.

However, as the biggest measures stalled one-by-one, the session ended early Saturday with a whimper, not a bang.

The most evident casualties were ambitious new standards for reducing carbon dioxide emissions that Gov. Jerry Brown hoped would make a global splash – blocked by a stubborn band of moderate Democrats in the Assembly.

Meanwhile, Republicans’ equally stubborn opposition to tax increases stalled several other issues, including new levies for transportation and health care that Brown sought.

Brown was furious that he had to remove the core feature of Senate Bill 350, reducing petroleum in automobile and truck fuel by 50 percent by 2030, to salvage other, relatively mild carbon reduction goals.

During an unusually lengthy news conference with legislative leaders, Brown excoriated the oil industry for its multi-million-dollar campaign to block the fuel cuts.

“I’d say oil has won a skirmish, but they’ve lost the bigger battle, because I am more determined than ever to make our regulatory regime work for the people of California,” Brown vowed, adding, “We’re going forward. The only thing different is my zeal has been intensified to a maximum degree.”

The industry’s campaign clearly had an impact, but vilifying it is also a rationalization that ignores carbon reduction’s more nuanced politics.

To read expanded column, click here.