Selling carbon credits may be money maker for counties
“It’s traded publicly in the world where you can sell carbon credits,” District 4 Supervisor Brian Dahle said at the county board’s Dec. 19 meeting.
Dahle said air quality issues were a big topic at the December meeting of the Regional Council of Rural Counties. He said he’d like the board to look at Assembly Bill 32, signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in September.
The bill authorized a program allowing a trading program for carbon credits.
Dahle pointed out Lassen County diverts more carbon than it emits.
“It might be a winner for us, for our fire safe councils, to be able to, as we divert carbon into cogeneration, that we may be able to sell those carbon credits to Hewlitt Packard, or somebody, and bring money in,” Dahle said, adding the board should be looking at selling the county’s credits.
The Plumas County Board of Supervisors had the item on its agenda to authorize selling carbon credits the same day, Dahle said.
According to Margo Thorning, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief economist for the American Council for Capital Formation, AB 32 requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, known as GHGs to 1990 levels by 2020.
Coauthored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, the law allows an emission trading system where energy users may buy the right to emit a ton of carbon from an entity that has reduced carbon emissions and thus has credits to sell.
The California Air Resources Board may adopt the trading system.
“All eyes are on the board and on whether it will, or will not, include emission trading as part of the implementation of this new law,” according to William M. Sloan’s December article entitled “New Climate Change Law – Kyoto in California?” at mofo.com/news/updates/files/update02290.html. “Already the board is soliciting information and advice, trying to gain a better understanding of the benefits and pitfalls involved with emission trading.”
Air board representatives have stated they expect to implement a carbon credits trading system, according to Staci Heaton, RCRC’s director of regulatory affairs. The ARB has already held several workshops and meetings to figure out how to implement the program. More meetings are scheduled in January.
California law already requires that 20 percent of electricity be produced from renewable forms of energy by 2017, Thorning said.
The Sierra region is capable of "sequestering," or capturing, more carbon than the Amazon rainforest, Steven Frish, vice president of programs at the Sierra Business Council, a consulting firm located in Truckee, told the Plumas County Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday, Dec. 5 meeting.
He said rural Sierra counties can begin exploring the carbon credit market as a source of new revenue since big industry is willing to purchase carbon credits to offset its excessive carbon emissions.
According to Frish, carbon credits are traded like futures and currently sell for between $5 and $9 per metric ton per 100 years in the United States. Internationally, that value is now around $25. Trading in carbon credits is a $35 billion a year market.
Big timber companies are already looking at the carbon credits market.
"Collins Pine is already registered with the state for this," Frish said. "These companies may begin selling sequestration projects and managing timber production for carbon sequestration."
Frish said the market would help revitalize the economies of rural counties.
"First, the initial revenue will go to public and private landowners and re-circulate locally," Frish said. "But in the long run, the sequestering capacity makes land more valuable and that should increase property taxes as well."
"Carbon sequestration will be something like the old stumpage fee," said Bob Meacher, chairman of the Plumas board.
"This will be a good opportunity to partner with the Forest Service," he said. "Then once again, we'll be pioneers. We'll be the first rural county in the United States to register."
At its Tuesday, Dec. 20 meeting, the Plumas board approved filling out a registration form and filing a $750 fee for the program without further discussion.
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