By Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times.
After cruising along for more than two years, California’s vaunted cap-and-trade program to cut carbon emissions has run into a few recent snags.
A state appeals court has signaled that it has doubts about how officials are spending billions in revenue from the program — or even if they have the right to collect the money at all. Disagreements have erupted in Sacramento over whether environmental regulators can unilaterally extend the program past 2020 or need to get the legislature’s permission to do so.
More questions arose at the state’s most recent auction of emission permits in May. The permits are the linchpin of the system, which requires businesses to cap their greenhouse gas emissions or buy sufficient permits to cover any excess. For the first time since February 2013, when the quarterly auctions began, bidders stayed away in droves. Only 11% of the available permits were sold. That punched a hole in the state budget, for state finance officials expected that more than $500 million would be raised from the May sales. Instead only about $10 million came in.