California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber)

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Sacramento, United States

Climate Lobbying Overview: The California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) is highly engaged with California climate policy, taking firmly negative positions on a number of different climate policy strands. The group has consistently lobbied to weaken or block climate legislation and publishes an annual list of “job killer” bills that it opposes. Numerous evidence shows CalChamber withdrawing or changing its positions on legislation after policymakers enact amendments to the bills, pointing to the high impact of its lobbying efforts.

Top-line Messaging on Climate Policy: CalChamber appears to lack significant top-line messaging on climate change policy, despite its high Engagement Intensity. As of May 2020, the organization has conveyed that market-based responses to climate change should be prioritized over other forms of government regulation, and has condemned “command-and-control” regulations.

Engagement with Climate-Related Policy: CalChamber has been a consistent opponent of implementing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards and targets in California, often framing proposed standards as unnecessary additional policies. In an August 2022 CalChamber alert, the association opposed the state's climate proposals of a carbon-neutrality goal and increasing the GHG emissions reduction target. In the 2021 state legislative session, CalChamber opposed the California Climate Crisis Act, which would have set a GHG emissions reduction target of at least 90% below 1990s levels by 2045. The organization also opposed Senate Bill 582 on raising the state’s GHG emissions reduction target to 80% by 2030, sending joint letters and appearing in committee hearings in April and May 2021. In April 2021, CalChamber sent letters to policymakers and appeared in opposition to the Climate Corporate Accountability Act, which would have directed the Air Resources Board to develop GHG emissions targets for large businesses and require them to report their operational emissions. A March 2021 joint letter led by CalChamber condemned SB 261’s emissions reductions targets for automobiles and light-duty trucks. In April 2019, CalChamber opposed GHG emissions reductions targets for medium and heavy-duty trucks as set by SB 44, although consequently expressed support for the bill after specific emissions reductions targets were removed from the bill text.

CalChamber has maintained that cap and trade is its preferred regulatory approach and appears to have supported the cap and trade program in California over and instead of other forms of regulation. For example, in a January 2020 article, the organization urged that cap-and-trade programs be given priority over net metering and renewable portfolio standard policies. Previously, in 2017, CalChamber led legal action against the rule. Though it reversed its position later that year, communications in 2019 and 2020 opposed changes to the program that would have successively raised the carbon price on an annual basis.

The organization has lobbied to weaken California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), evident in an August 2019 letter to the California State Senate supporting an amendment to expand credit provisions for crude oil and gas technologies under the rule. In May 2019, CalChamber opposed SB 43, a policy mandating a regulatory scheme to measure the carbon intensity of products sold in California. However, the group withdrew its opposition the following July following certain amendments. It does not appear to support energy efficiency regulations and related government initiatives, evident in a joint letter to the State Assembly in July 2020 which argued to reduce the scope of eligibility to the state’s low-income homes weatherization program.

Positioning on Energy Transition: CalChamber has been actively engaged in opposing a range of California policies aimed at transitioning the energy mix. In a September 2022 press release, the association opposed California SB 1137, which would limit oil and gas production in the state. In July 2022, a CalChamber press release stated opposition against California Proposition 30, which would levy a tax on high-income earners in the state to fund EVs. In April 2021, CalChamber opposed Senate Bill 467 on banning new and renewed permits for certain oil and fracking methods by 2022, stating in a letter to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water that the bill is an “almost complete shutdown of in-state oil and gas production on an arbitrary timeline.” The group opposed the state’s landmark zero-carbon electricity mandate introduced under SB 100, evident in a June 2018 joint letter to the California Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy. In January 2020, the group protested a bill which would mandate the closure of thousands of new and existing oil and fossil gas extraction facilities.

CalChamber appears particularly active in opposing efforts to decarbonize transportation. For example, in September 2021, CalChamber opposed Senate Bill 500 on requiring all new, light-duty autonomous vehicles in the state to be zero-emission beginning in 2030. In September 2020, the group released a statement of opposition to Governor Newsom’s September 2020 executive order mandating that all new cars and trucks sold after 2035 be emissions free. Despite this, a March 2021 letter to the California Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation expressed support for a tax and fee exemption for the purchase of electric medium and heavy-duty vehicles. In June 2019, the organization opposed SB 1014, which would require annual targets and goals for greenhouse gas emissions among transportation network companies. However, CalChamber proceeded to withdraw its opposition after its concerns were “addressed” in bill amendments. CalChamber argued against the “hugely ambitious” manufacturing mandates under the state’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule throughout 2019. Furthermore, CalChamber has opposed the the Clean Electric Vehicle Initiative, which mandated the creation of a clean vehicle rebate plan, in June 2019, and AB 40 in January 2020, which would institute the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program (CVRP).

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