Environmental Activists Call California's New Cap-and-Trade Law 'Racist'

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On Tuesday July 25, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the most sweeping cap-and-trade program in the country. According to the New York Times, the law (Assembly Bill 308) is "a far deeper cut than President Barack Obama proposed for the entire United States and deeper than most other countries have contemplated." 

You would think environmental activists would be over the moon about this. You would be wrong. 

Michelle Chan, vice president of the environmental group Friends of Earth, actually called the new anti-climate-change program "racist." Er...what? 

In a blog post on the Friends of Earth website, Chan writes: 

"This is institutional racism: when a bipartisan legislature pushes through public policies like AB 398 that look at the 'big picture' and 'mean well,' but really just perpetuate patterns of inequality and discrimination."

In her full blog post, Chan does have a point -- but certainly not one about racism. She argues that the new cap-and-trade program prohibits local authorities from making laws about pollution, leaving pollutants to instead be regulated directly by the state. This makes it easier for corporations like Chevron to lobby authorities at the state level and get tax breaks for not really capping their pollutants at all. 

Aha! Perhaps Chan is onto something conservatives have been saying for a long time: cap-and-trade is less about environmentalism, and more about corporate welfare. 

With that being said, the "institutionalized racism" argument is obviously bonkers. Chan says that because 80 percent of people who live by stationary pollutants like factories are minorities, any law that allows pollution is racist. Well, that is a huge jump. She writes passionately "let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities."

Ok, she lost me there. But, maybe one day, the "dark clouds" of hyper-partisanship will be lifted, and liberal environmentalists and fiscal conservatives can agree that cap-and-trade is a bad deal for people of all ethnicities. 

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