signs 'Carbon Sink Act'!
Bill to tally forest CO2 becomes state law
Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Forests Forever-sponsored Assembly
Bill 1504 into law on Sept. 29, 2010!
In the state legislature, victory for A.B. 1504, the
“Carbon Sink Act,” authored by Assemblymember Nancy
Skinner (D-Berkeley), came at the last possible moment before
the Senate and Assembly adjourned at midnight on Aug. 31.
Long months of negotiation came to a head in the session’s
final burst of legislative action. First the Senate passed A.B.
1504 by a vote of 24 to 12, then the measure went back to the
Assembly which quickly concurred 49 to 27 on the pending Senate
amendments, automatically sending the bill to the governor for
Emails, calls and letters to Gov. Schwarzenegger are encouraged
to thank him for signing the measure! (See the action item
That A.B. 1504 made it under the wire and won took even supporters
by surprise. Amid the turbulent final session of the legislature,
thick with partisan bickering over budget matters, many bills
failed to squeak through before the deadline. Fortunately, in
the case of A.B. 1504, all the behind-the-scenes activity by
legislators and advocates throughout the year worked magic to
slip the bill through.
On several occasions the tug-of-war
over the measure nearly doomed it. In mid-August, the bill went
to the Senate for its third reading, but abruptly on Aug. 26
the measure was yanked away and mysteriously sent back to the
rules committee, which could have killed its chances.
Then suddenly on Aug. 30, again without explanation, the bill
was retrieved from Rules and sent back to the full Senate. Its
passage the next day proved its resilience.
In early August the bill had been one of a handful of measures
– out of a very long list of them – retrieved from
the California Senate Appropriations Committee’s dreaded
“suspense file,” where many bills are consigned
over cost concerns.
Amended to satisfy the concerns of a majority of the Appropriations
Committee members, A.B. 1504 passed by a vote of 7-4 on Aug.
Your calls and emails to key committee members urging YES
votes made a big difference in giving A.B. 1504 a last-minute
reprieve. Forests Forever’s supporters helped keep
this worthy piece of legislation on track toward final approval
by the Senate.
The measure had cleared the full Assembly in January by a vote
of 43 to 28.
What the bill does
A.B. 1504 would amend the Z'berg-Nejedly Forest Practice Act
of 1973 to require the state Board of Forestry (BOF) to guarantee
that all its regulations governing commercial timber harvesting
take into account the capacity of forests to sequester carbon
The purpose is to ensure that Californias public and private
forests store enough CO2 to meet the greenhouse-gas (GHG) emission-reduction
goals mandated for the states forestry sector by A.B.
32, the historic California Global Warming Solutions Act of
A.B. 1504 would require the California Dept. of Forestry (CDF),
in consultation with the state Air Resources Board (ARB), to
determine to what extent existing forestry regulations and programs
are meeting A.B. 32s GHG targets.
We need to ensure that the CDF accurately monitors and
assesses carbon sequestration scenarios, said Forest Forever
Legislative Advocate Luke Breit. We think A.B. 1504 will
help achieve that goal.
For the CDF to satisfy A.B. 1504s requirements, the agency
likely will need to commission a Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA)
of forestry products and practices, according to Brendan McCarthy,
consultant to Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Christine
Conducting such an assessment, as per federal EPA guidelines,
means compiling an inventory of the energy and material inputs
in forestry operations, evaluating the cumulative environmental
impacts associated with these inputs, and interpreting the results
to help make informed conservation decisions.
The point is to ensure that the BOFs regulations, and
practices are in fact continuing to sequester carbon dioxide
at the current estimated level of some five million metric tons
of the gas annually.
McCarthy said CDF estimates that commissioning an LCA could
cost anywhere from $800,000 to $1 million.
As those who have been following the progress of Skinners
A.B. 1504 through the legislature well know, the bill would
make carbon sequestration one of the prime considerations in
forest management along with watershed protection, fisheries
and wildlife conservation, and recreational opportunities.
The legislation would help manage forests stressed by climate
change, maintaining them as a net sequesterer of CO2.
At the same time, the bill also assures the continuous growing
and harvesting of commercial tree species and makes a willful
violation of the BOFs rules including failure to
assess forest CO2 sequestration a crime.
Californias forests serve as a first-line defense against
CO2 pollution and global warming. Assemblymember Skinner and
Forests Forever want to recognize and codify that value so that
forests are managed in a way that enhances their capacity to
scrub the air clean.
To achieve its goals under A.B. 32, the state will need to actively
promote sustainable management practices for forests, which
may require altering existing forest practices and land use
One must examine the whole forest over time, not a single
point in time, when assessing a policy's carbon effects,
said Assembly legislative analyst Dan Chia. When comparing
the average carbon stores of a young and older forest, it is
the latter forest that will store more carbon.
According to Chia, the BOF, CDF and ARB should strive
to go beyond the status quo sequestration rate and ensure that
their policies and regulations reflect the unique role forests
play in combating climate change.
or call Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and thank him for signing
A.B. 1504 –the “Carbon Sink Act”! Let him
know you appreciate his efforts to control California’s
greenhouse gas emissions, and for recognizing the importance
of accounting for our forests’ role in sequestering CO2
as called for by A.B. 1504.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Also thank Assemblymember Nancy
Skinner (D-Berkeley) for authoring A.B. 1504 and advancing
it to the Senate and the Governor's desk. Call her Capitol office
at 916-319-2014 or click on the email link above.