California Climate Plan Undermines Goals of Equity and Justice, Exacerbates Environmental Burdens

For too long, environmental justice communities have borne the brunt of pollution in California. A climate strategy that ignores or exacerbates these inequities is one that is rooted in climate injustice.

California deserves a climate plan with bold strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prioritize social equity, public health, air and water quality and direct benefits to communities who most often bear the weight of localized industrial pollution and climate change impacts. The California Air Resources Board’s Final Scoping Plan relies too heavily on strategies that undermine its goals of equity and justice and exacerbate existing environmental burdens.

Most notably, the Scoping Plan depends on engineered carbon solutions such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) and direct air capture (DAC). California must prioritize meeting its climate goals through direct emissions reductions and a robust natural and working lands strategy, ensuring that the state’s climate strategies reduce co-pollutants that create and exacerbate environmental injustices. Engineered carbon solutions that do not address air pollution and potentially expand the life of fossil fuel infrastructure should not be used. Consequently, CCUS should not be used on refineries or other fossil fuel infrastructure, and any CCUS projects that do proceed must not threaten to worsen air, water, or other pollution; and must be required to reduce local air pollution.

Additionally, the Scoping Plan places too much emphasis on incentive-based approaches to greenhouse gas emissions from dairies. Factory farm gas and other polluting fuels do not belong in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). By allowing fossil fuel producers to purchase credits from dairy digesters, the LCFS incentivizes factory farm gas and its consequent pollution of environmental justice communities. We are concerned that “increasing the stringency” of the LCFS and requiring fossil fuel producers to purchase more credits will incentivize dairies to expand and create more localized air and water pollution. 

In the upcoming LCFS rulemaking, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) must:

  • Eliminate credits for avoided methane, which unrealistically lower the carbon intensity of the fuel itself and create massive profit opportunities for methane production.
  • Conduct a full lifecycle analysis of livestock biogas that accurately includes all the greenhouse gas emissions—both upstream and downstream.
  • Ensure that all purported emissions reductions are additional to any emissions reductions claimed by other programs or incentives.
  • Prohibit the production of participating fuels from resulting in negative local environmental impacts including air and water quality impacts.

In the meantime, we urge CARB to not allow additional pathways for factory farm gas through the LCFS until the rulemaking process is complete.

CARB has authority to directly regulate methane emissions from dairies in 2024, pursuant to SB 1383. We urge CARB to initiate this process in 2023 to ensure effective regulations are in place by January 2024. Direct regulation of livestock methane should be the primary means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and CARB must design and implement regulations as soon as possible.

Finally, the Scoping Plan relies too heavily on hydrogen as a replacement fuel while ignoring potential negative impacts on communities. Currently, most hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels, and the Scoping Plan depends on biomethane as a source for hydrogen, which may increase pollution in communities. We strongly recommend that all hydrogen be electrolytic, produced by renewable wind and solar power. 

For too long, environmental justice communities have borne the brunt of pollution in California. A climate strategy that ignores or exacerbates these inequities is one that is rooted in climate injustice. We look forward to continuing our work with CARB and community leaders from throughout the San Joaquin and Eastern Coachella Valleys on climate solutions that reduce emissions at their source and protect the health of frontline communities.

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