The fight against climate change in California gains an unlikely ally: Republicans

Srepping further into its role as the nation’s pioneer on climate issues, California might soon clear a hurdle that has long frustrated environmental advocates: Republicans say they’re joining the fight against global warming.

Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) and some of his colleagues are taking the unusual step of embracing the state’s complex regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, pledging to work with Democrats at the same time President Trump rolls back national environmental policies.

“Californians, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, are different from the rest of the country,” said Mayes, who represents parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “What they’re doing back in Washington, D.C., is not what we’re going to be doing in California.”

Mayes and almost all of his colleagues voted against last year’s measure to set a new, tougher target for slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But now that the goal has become law, he wants to work with Democrats on extending the cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release emissions into the atmosphere.

“It would be foolish not to engage,” said Mayes, who has huddled with a cadre of Assembly Republicans to start developing their own ideas about limiting the price of emission permits and using the program’s revenue for tax credits or rebates. Their stance aligns with that of industry groups such as oil companies and food processors that have already backed cap and trade as a more cost-effective alternative to stricter rules for cutting emissions.

Lawmakers are debating the program’s future because there are legal questions over whether cap and trade can continue operating after 2020, and the Republicans’ effort to get involved could reshape this year’s conversations over policies that are usually crafted by Democrats debating among themselves. The law that launched cap and trade was signed in 2006 by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an outspoken champion of fighting global warming, but he’s been a high-profile exception to the deep partisan divide on the issue.

Gaining bipartisan support for cap and trade, California’s most high-profile climate initiative, could be a political coup for Gov. Jerry Brown at a time when Trump is threatening an international agreement on global warming. It could also offer new paths toward a two-thirds vote to extend the program, a higher level needed to protect it from legal challenges. Democrats hold enough seats to reach that threshold on their own, but just barely, a challenge that became clear during a nail-biter of a vote to raise taxes to fund road repairs.

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