Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Press Release: CARB Votes to Approve State Climate Plan; The Catch: Billions in Anticipated Subsidies for Carbon Capture Schemes

For Immediate Release

Download this press release here as a pdf.  

California Air Resources Board Votes to Approve State Climate Plan; The Catch: Billions in Anticipated Subsidies for Carbon Capture Schemes

Environmental justice groups note Board leadership in scaling up mass transit, stopping the expansion of gas power plants, and planning for a coordinated phasedown of oil production; warn that reliance on carbon capture schemes for fossil fuel infrastructure derails meaningful climate action.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California Air Resources Board voted to adopt the final 2022 Climate Change Scoping Plan Update, a blueprint that will guide the next 20 years of climate action in California. Environmental justice advocates praised the Board’s leadership in key sectors, including progressive goals for mass transit, strong interim goals to wind down gas-fired electricity generation, and the creation of a multi-agency process to coordinate the phasedown of oil refining and extraction; but warned that the plan’s reliance on carbon capture schemes for fossil fuels undermines meaningful climate action.

“Improvements in the state climate plan—including bold targets for expanding mass transit, stopping the expansion of gas power plants, and planning for the phasedown of oil production – could not have been won without the political courage of current Board leadership,” said Mabel Tsang, CEJA Political Director. “We applaud the call for an inter-agency process to coordinate the phasedown of oil refining and extraction in California. However, the plan still paves the way for billions in subsidies for oil and gas executives by using carbon capture schemes to lock in refineries, dirty gas power plants, and polluting bioenergy and hydrogen facilities. We urge CARB to hold a dedicated rulemaking process for carbon capture and storage permitting to ensure that these projects do not increase air and water pollution in already overburdened communities.”

In developing its climate plan, several Board members visited communities that live alongside massive oil refineries, dirty gas-fired power plants, and polluting industries.  They met with residents and advocates, and heard about the impacts of California’s climate policies on people’s lives.

“The improvements in the state’s climate plan show what’s possible when regulators and decision-makers step out of the halls of Sacramento and see firsthand the consequences of their policy decisions,” said Juan Flores, Community Organizer with Center for Race, Poverty, and Environment and Environmental Justice Advisory Committee Member  “We hope that this practice will be a model for future climate policy development both within CARB and beyond, and urge CARB to establish a permanent Environmental Justice Advisory Council and incorporate robust public health analysis for the implementation of the Scoping Plan.”

This year, Californians sent over 10,000 letters to Governor Newsom and the CARB Board, urging them to adopt a scoping plan that scaled up investments in mass transit, planned for a full, coordinated phaseout of fossil fuels by 2045, and kept carbon capture off of fossil fuel infrastructure.  

In response to these calls for action, the California Air Resources Board doubled its targets for reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) which would accelerate and scale up investment in mass transit and at the Governor’s direction, replaced its plan to dramatically expand gas power plants with a plan to bring 20 GW of offshore wind online by 2045. The Board went even further to set an interim target for reducing dirty gas-fired electricity generation.

“The Air Resources Board raised the bar for California in doubling the state’s targets for reducing vehicle miles traveled, putting a necessary spotlight on the need for real climate solutions that work for all Californians, not just the wealthy,” said Kyle Heiskala, Climate Justice Policy Advocate at Environmental Health Coalition. “These progressive VMT goals are a call to action for the state to accelerate and scale up investments in mass transit, to get serious about anti-displacement policies as a climate strategy, and design a future where Californians no longer need to spend hours stuck in traffic to reach family, friends and work.”

“This year, the Air Resources Board heeded the voice of frontline communities by eliminating any new gas-fired electricity generation from the Scoping Plan. The Plan’s 30 MMT by 2035 greenhouse gas emissions goal for the electricity sector sets the stage for retiring these toxic, unreliable plants,” said Ari Eisenstadt, Regenerate Campaign Manager.  “These changes lay the groundwork for this year’s federal commitment to clean energy development to become reality. We urge implementing agencies to use the Scoping Plan as a launching point to develop even more ambitious timelines to phase out gas plants and replace them with 100% clean, renewable, and truly reliable energy.” 

In June and again in September, the Board committed to including an interagency planning process to coordinate the phasedown of oil production in California alongside the decline in in-state demand, while addressing the growing issue of oil exports. While CARB’s modeling projects an over 80% decline in demand for finished petroleum products, and recognizes major feasibility issues with carbon capture on refineries, the plan tentatively puts carbon capture on 70% of California’s refinery operations, potentially keeping these refineries online and polluting long after Californians no longer need them. 

“This Board is starting to show some real climate leadership with their call for a coordinated, multi-agency process to phase down oil refining and extraction as demand for oil declines in California. This is a huge step toward protecting public health, stabilizing our climate, and finally addressing the growing issue of oil exports. However, the plan still offers massive giveaways to Big Oil, using carbon capture to keep refineries online and increasing pollution through the expansion of dirty hydrogen in California,” said Connie Cho, Associate Attorney with Communities for a Better Environment. “With the end of the oil era approaching, we look forward to working with the Governor’s office, CalEPA, and other state agencies in the interagency planning process to end California’s century-long legacy of environmental racism and ensure a just transition for all.”

In July, Governor Newsom directed the Board to set massive targets for carbon removal – 20 million metric tons by 2030 and 100 million metric tons by 2045. Despite his direction to prioritize nature-based solutions to sequester carbon, the final plan relies almost entirely on engineered carbon removal, including both controversial carbon capture and storage technologies and direct air capture.

Data source: AB 32 GHG Inventory Sectors Modeling Data Spreadsheet, “CCS by Fuels” tab. 

Federal 45Q tax credits subsidize polluters at $85 per tCO2 for point source capture and $180 per tCO2 for direct air capture coupled with dedicated geologic storage.  The final scoping plan includes over 130 million metric tons of captured carbon from oil refineries, paving the way for over $11 billion in federal subsidies for oil corporations.

“As Governor Newsom champions a price gouging penalty to curb skyrocketing gas prices, we urge the Governor to ensure that the transition away from fossil fuels is led by the communities and workers that are most directly impacted by these decisions, not fossil fuel executives who are using carbon capture schemes to line their own pockets with taxpayer funds,” said Faraz Rizvi, Campaign and Policy Manager with Asian Pacific Environmental Network.

The final scoping plan also doubles down on incentivizing polluting fuels such as factory farm gas through the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). Although the scoping plan directs CARB to increase the stringency and scope of the LCFS, it does not include important directions to ensure that emissions reductions that are counted are in addition to reductions already counted by other California programs, fuels are evaluated using a full and accurate lifecycle analysis, and impacts to water and air in surrounding communities are considered. 

“California’s climate strategies cannot continue to rely on policies that increase pollution in low-income communities of color, and the inclusion of factory farm gas in the LCFS does just that. While we are disappointed that our concerns with the LCFS weren’t addressed in the final scoping plan, we are looking forward to continuing to engage with CARB in the 2023 LCFS rulemaking process to ensure that our fight against climate change protects the health and well-being of all Californians,” said Jamie Katz, Staff Attorney with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. 

In the coming year, the California Air Resources Board will engage in critical rulemaking processes including:

  • Advanced Clean Fleets will set a timeline for achieving 100% zero-emissions heavy-duty truck sales.
  • Low Carbon Fuel Standard rulemaking will make changes to how the state subsidizes polluting fuels including hydrogen, biofuels, biogas from mega-dairies, and biomass.
  • Cap-and-Trade rulemaking will make changes to the design of the state’s accounting system for industrial pollution including examining loopholes like allowance banking and offsets.
  • SB 905 requires that CARB establish standards and a permitting system for carbon capture and storage projects and reduce air and water pollution from CCS projects to the maximum extent technologically feasible.