SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- California's highest court on Wednesday ruled to allow state air quality regulators to continue working on a contentious program that provides polluters with financial incentives to emit fewer greenhouse gases.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports (http://bit.ly/nLqTD4 ) that the California Supreme Court rejected a request by environmental justice groups to stop the California Air Resources Board, or CARB, from implementing the plan.
The state's so-called "cap and trade" program is a key piece of California's landmark 2006 climate law, called AB32, which seeks to reduce California's release of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020.
The cap and trade program would require polluters like power plants and refineries to buy annual permits for a specified amount of emissions that can be sent into the air. The permits could then be bought and sold by the companies, depending on whether a company exceeds its allotted emissions or falls within them and has extra permits to sell.
Businesses that go over their legally allotted emissions can also meet part of their targets by investing in tree plantings or other greenhouse gas reducing programs anywhere in the world.
The plaintiffs, led by the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment, argued that the program will simply allow polluters to buy the right to pollute more and further harm the people who live in neighborhoods near dirty facilities.
Work on the program was halted earlier this year when a lower court judge sided with the plaintiffs, saying CARB did not adequately study alternatives to cap and trade in its zeal to adopt the program. But a state court of appeal issued a stay of that ruling, which the high court on Wednesday upheld.
The board applauded the ruling.
"This decision allows us to continue to address the broadest range of approaches to reduce greenhouse gases as required under AB32," said CARB spokesman Stanley Young.
The plaintiffs have vowed to pursue the legal case despite the high court's ruling.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com
Copyright 2011 The AP.