CBSN

California law targets greenhouse gases from cows, landfills

Cows watch birds fly past at Harris Cattle Ranch in Coalinga in California’s Central Valley, May 6, 2015.

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

SACRAMENTO, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that regulates for the first time greenhouse-gas emissions tied to dairy cows and landfills, an escalation of California’s efforts to fight climate change beyond carbon-based gases to include methane and other pollutants.

The move by the Democratic governor targets a category of gases known as short-lived climate pollutants, which have an outsize effect on global warming despite their relatively short life in the atmosphere. Environmentalists hope that tackling short-lived pollutants now would buy time to develop new and more affordable technology to reduce carbon emissions.

The legislation will require steep reductions in a variety of pollutants, including methane; HFC gases used in aerosols and air conditioning refrigerants; and soot, known as black carbon. It’s tied to $90 million in funding for the dairy industry and garbage collectors.

“This bill curbs these dangerous pollutants and thereby protects public health and slows climate change,” Brown said in a statement.

Republicans said the strict regulations will hurt agricultural businesses, despite concessions made to dairy farmers.

They will be required to reduce methane emissions from manure to 40 percent below their 2013 levels by 2030, with the help of $50 million from the state’s fee charged to polluters, known as cap-and-trade.

The money will help a handful of them buy dairy digesters, which use methane from manure to generate energy that’s sold to electrical utilities.

The legislation also allows the Air Resources Board to regulate cow flatulence if there’s viable technology​ to reduce it.

Lawmakers approved the measure on the last day of the legislative session after Brown negotiated a compromise with dairy farmers, some environmental groups and the bill’s author, Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, almost exclusively with Democratic support.

“With these bold and ambitious goals, we’ll continue to set the standard for climate policy​ worldwide,” Lara said in a statement.

While some environmental groups​ supported the legislation, others were angry that Brown and Lara made concessions to ease the transition for the dairy industry, including postponing mandates until 2024.

The new law also pushes for a significant increase in composting to reduce organic waste, which emits methane when it breaks down in landfills. It calls for a boost of 50 percent within four years.