Greenhouse-gas fee has business groups fuming

The Bay Area will become one of the first regions in the nation to charge businesses for emitting greenhouse gases.

Business groups, however, say the plan to charge companies is unnecessary and could lead to litigation.

In total, 2,500 firms will be affected, although 1,650 of those businesses will pay less than $1 per year, according to documents provided by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the nine-county regional group that approved the plan Wednesday.

The fees would not be imposed upon vehicles, which are responsible for 50.6 percent of all greenhouse gases in the region.

The greenhouse-gas fee will cost Bay Area businesses a little more than 4 cents per metric ton of greenhouse gases emitted. District officials have called the fee “modest,” saying the program is aimed at making the Bay Area a leader in climate-control initiatives.

“The cost of doing nothing today is the cost of our public health,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill, who sits on the district board.

With state agencies already studying ways to decrease emissions as required by Assembly Bill 32 —the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 — some business groups questioned how the Bay Area’s plan will fit in with larger climate-control programs.

“Our concern is not about the money, it’s about the uncertainty that has now been raised in the state,” said Dennis Bolt of the Western States Petroleum Association. “This could undermine the entire initiative going on in Sacramento.”

Bolt said litigation against the plan is “always a discussion with our members.”

Shelly Sullivan, executive director of the AB 32 Implementation Group, a coalition of 150 California businesses, said the plan puts local businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

Lisa Fasano, a spokeswoman for the air-quality district, said that the district is not concerned with litigation challenging its authority to impose the fee. She also said that if local businesses are concerned with the costs they should find ways to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.

The fee, which will generate $1.1 million for the district, will go into effect by July.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com  

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