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Will California Adopt First-of-its-Kind Legislation Governing GHG Emissions from Land-Based Activities?

The California legislature is considering a bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from “working lands” (including agricultural, grazing, and forest) and “natural lands”. The bill also would encourage carbon sequestration programs on those lands. If passed, Assembly Bill 2954 would be the first measure of its kind in the United States and could also serve as a model for other states seeking to develop similar policies in the future. Agriculture currently produces an estimated 8% of California’s total GHG emissions, while agriculture, forestry, and grazing also present opportunities enhanced carbon sequestration. Landowners, agribusinesses, forestry interests, and other stakeholders in California and beyond may want to follow the development of this legislation and related actions by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

How AB 2954 Would Work

AB 2954 would require CARB to set targets for GHG emissions reductions and carbon sequestration on the state’s natural and working lands by January 1, 2023. Under the legislation, CARB would identify practices and policies that would help achieve its GHG reduction and sequestration goals, and to develop methods for the State to track such emissions and sequestration. For example, carbon sequestration practices such as reducing tillage, mulching fields, and planting cover crops are increasingly employed by landowners seeking to reduce their land’s carbon emissions. Measures like these, along with other measures aimed at different land-based activities, would be included as part of CARB’s next update to its Scoping Plan, a document which generally sets out the agency’s full range of policies aimed at addressing climate change.

Implementation of AB 2954 by CARB likely would require a multi-faceted, multi-agency approach. AB 2954 has received bipartisan criticism over concerns that it grants CARB too much authority over the agricultural and forestry industries, which are outside CARB’s expertise. Various legislators also have suggested that the bill should shift some of this power to the Department of Food and Agriculture or to the Natural Resources Agency. Agricultural groups expressed concern for the speed that the bill was moving through the legislature and for CARB’s ability to enforce the bill’s requirements. Despite these criticisms, the bill passed the Assembly’s Natural Resources and Appropriations Committees.

What’s Next?

On August 14, 2020, the bill was passed by the Senate’s Committee on Environmental Quality and sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate Appropriations Committee subsequently placed the bill under submission, likely rendering it dead for the current session. Nonetheless, there are discussions regarding passage of the bill, or similar legislation, during the next legislative session beginning in January 2021, as California and other states are increasingly focused on land-based or nature-based mechanisms for reducing and sequestering GHG emissions. Indeed, California will need to incorporate such measures if it is to achieve its goal of net-zero GHG emissions statewide by 2045.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume X, Number 238

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About this Author

Brook Detterman Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA
Principal

Brook's practice focuses on climate change, renewable energy, and environmental litigation.

Brook helps his clients to navigate domestic and international climate change programs, develop renewable energy projects, and generate carbon offsets.  He helps his clients to negotiate, structure, and implement transactions related to carbon offsets and renewable energy, and works with clients during all phases of renewable energy and carbon offset project development.  Brook also represents clients during complex environmental litigation, having served as litigation and appellate counsel...

617.419.2345
Alan J. Sachs Regulatory Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Principal

Alan’s practice focuses on the wide range of regulatory issues faced by the global agriculture, food, biotechnology, and bioenergy industries.

Practicing environmental law provides him with daily opportunities to use his legal skills and training to help clients overcome often extremely technical business and regulatory challenges in order to ensure compliance with applicable environmental requirements.

He advises numerous Forbes Global 2000 companies on the legal and regulatory requirements associated with both domestic and foreign production, and the import, export, and distribution of pesticides, industrial biocides, and treated commodities and products. In every matter, Alan strives to meet and exceed his clients’ expectations by providing them with the environmental legal analysis and solutions they need to achieve their objectives.

Alan’s practice includes all aspects of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of pesticides, including the manufacture, import, distribution, labeling, registration, and use of all types of consumer and agricultural pesticide products under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). As part of his FIFRA legal practice, Alan frequently supports the data rights objectives of Beveridge & Diamond’s pesticide clients; advises clients on EPA enforcement matters; and prepares data licensing agreements, product distribution agreements, and other related contracts.

Beyond FIFRA, Alan advises pesticide manufacturers on issues arising under other relevant laws—including the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA); the Plant Protection Act (PPA); the Endangered Species Act (ESA); the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA); and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)—and provides guidance in connection with pesticide requirements and data protection issues in the European Union and other jurisdictions around the world. Alan also counsels clients on the regulation of antimicrobial, biocide, and biostimulant products under FIFRA and other regulatory regimes, as well as the coordinated regulation of genetically engineered plants, animals, and insects by EPA, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

202-789-6049
Jacob P. Duginski Environmental Attorney Beveridge & Diamond San Francisco, CA
Associate

Jake maintains a diverse regulatory and litigation practice providing client-centered, solution-driven advice.

He litigates before California’s trial and appellate courts, advises on regulatory compliance with a focus on California-specific issues, and represents clients in various administrative enforcement settings. His practice philosophy is to provide sound, timely, actionable advice with sensitivity to each individual client’s business needs. 

Clean Air, Climate Change, and CEQA

Clients who operate in California routinely find themselves with...

415-262-4018
Andrew A. Eberle Environmental Regulatory and Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Law Firm, Oregon
Associate

Andrew is not admitted to practice in California. He is admitted to practice only in Oregon.

Andrew maintains a diverse environmental regulatory and litigation practice, with a focus on product lifecycle, hazardous materials, and land use issues.

Prior to joining B&D, Andrew clerked in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey for the Honorable Jerome B. Simandle, U.S.D.J., and the Honorable Ann Marie Donio, U.S.M.J. Earlier, he worked as a Law Clerk in the Environment &...

415.262.4052