I recently had the opportunity to attend a California Air Resources Board hearing on the agency’s plans to spend revenue from a proposed cap and trade auction.  This auction will cost Californians billions of dollars, but when citizens showed up at CARB to express their opposition, CARB Chairman Mary Nichols abruptly shut down public comments, announcing she was “disappointed” after she “invited” audience members to the hearing, they would have the audacity to criticize her plans.

Her announcement was met with dismay by the audience, many members of which had driven long distances for the chance to share their opinion.  Citizen energy consumers and concerned small business owners are disappointed that CARB goes through the motions of holding hearings and soliciting citizen input without truly considering the input of people who worry about lost jobs and higher prices for food and other essential goods and services.

At the cap and trade hearing, representatives of organizations supportive of CARB’s proposal were allowed to go to the front of the line because according to Chairman Nichols, they needed to leave early.  In fact, the first half hour of public comment was exclusively from people supporting the proposal who “needed to leave early.”  Public comment was only shut down when critical comments began to be expressed later.

Online videos featuring the California Air Resources Board often achieve fewer than 100 views on YouTube.  However, Chairman Nichols’ behavior at this recent hearing showed such a disregard for the Californians who will have to pay the bill for CARB’s new energy tax that a short clip of her shutting down public comment before a dismayed audience has been viewed over 5,000 times.

While CARB members do not have to stand for election and therefore do not need to worry too much about public sentiment, the Governor and Legislature should take action to stop a plan that will drive businesses away and kill even more jobs.

The hidden energy tax the agency proposes is not necessary to achieve the carbon reductions required under AB 32.  The auction is just another way to raise money for CARB to spend on programs and subsidies (like the Federal government’s Solyndra disaster for example) with no accountability as to their cost effectiveness or environmental benefit.  International financial firms would manage the auction and profit on the backs of California businesses, consumers and ratepayers.

That’s why a new partnership called Friends for Saving California Jobs will be holding a rally against cap and trade on the Steps of the State Capitol on August 15th, the same day CARB will be testing their new trading system.  At the rally, we will call for job creation and economic growth instead of costly new energy taxes.

Watch the video of CARB Chairman Nichols cutting off public comment here.


Eric Eisenhammer is Founder of the Coalition of Energy Users and a Board Member of Friends for Saving California Jobs.