Promoted as a monumental model for the rest of the world, the new climate change legislative and regulatory proposals under consideration now in Sacramento are being heralded as a way to transform global policy. Combined, SB 32 and SB 350 would establish the state’s energy and climate change policy for decades to come. Unfortunately, the legislation also grants state agencies, particularly the California Air Resources Board, extraordinary power to develop and implement policy, relegating our Southern California elected representatives to a secondary role.

BizFed certainly does not question the state’s desire to develop programs that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rather, our concern lies with the ability of our legislators to have a central role in shaping future policy and protecting the people in our region. While regulatory agencies must abide by minimal open government rules, they are largely unaccountable to the regular Californians who will bear the costs and reap the rewards of such monumental policy shifts. However, elected officials must face those very constituents, explain their decisions, and be accountable for how these major policy shifts affect daily life for the people they represent.

The legislation sets goals that stretch into 2030 and 2050 — that’s projecting 15 and 35 years into the future, at a time when California’s environmental, economic and social systems may be vastly different. And the bills do not require any major regulatory decisions during these timeframes to be brought back to the Legislature for approval or modification. There are no off-ramps or conditions that would require state agencies to halt harmful programs or modify programs causing unintended consequences. The bills are also void of any requirement to meet certain milestones, to compare costs and benefits, or to report on the impact to the economy or jobs.

Why does BizFed care so much about ensuring elected officials preserve a strong role in the process? According to a report by Dr. Michael Shires from Pepperdine University, BizFed members and Southern California residents have more at stake than other parts of the state. “Los Angeles County and California already have some of the highest energy costs in the United States …Adding to these already-high prices are the pressures that emerge from the implementation of AB 32 and the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards which will, over time, require the state to purchase growing levels of energy from renewable, but frequently more expensive, sources.” The author further notes that gasoline, diesel and other fuel prices are also likely to be significantly impacted under the implementation of climate change programs.

The study points to the fact that Los Angeles has already lost a significant number of manufacturing jobs. Since many manufacturing operations are energy-dependent (both electricity and natural gas), the study notes that climate change policies may have two unintended effects: More manufacturing job losses, and “the populations most likely to be affected are workers struggling to transition into the middle class. Because of the demographics of the Los Angeles County workforce and the location of manufacturing jobs within the region, these workers are most likely to be poor and minority— predominantly Latino and African-American.”

A lot can happen in the next 15 years, especially if elected officials abdicate so much accountability and authority to a state agency for such a long a period of time. We ask our Southern California representatives to fight to preserve the Legislature’s role in this “monumental” proposed legislation so we can ensure practical environmental protections while also protecting and growing our economy.

Tracy Rafter is the Founding CEO of the Los Angeles County Business Federation.