Businesses in San Francisco Bay Area May Pay Fee for Emissions
It is believed to be the first time in the country that any government body would charge industries directly for emissions that contribute to climate change. The regional agency that is considering the fee, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, would be effectively leapfrogging the continuing debate in Sacramento and Washington over how to control emissions.
The businesses affected by the fee — 4.4 cents per ton of carbon dioxide emitted — range from large petroleum refineries and cement plants to small gasoline stations and industrial bakeries.
The air quality management agency has long had independent authority under state law to regulate businesses that emit conventional pollutants like fine particulates. In establishing a new fee, it would be stretching its mandate to include carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases.
A representative of local oil refineries said the agency’s authority to do this was “questionable” but he would not predict whether there would be a court challenge. If the fee is adopted, as expected, at a May 21 hearing, it would take effect on July 1.
At a hearing here Wednesday, regulators indicated that the fee could raise $1.1 million annually. Refineries, power plants and cement plants would pay nearly 90 percent of total fees. The largest gas stations might be charged $1 a year; the Safeway bakery that supplies bread to all stores in the Bay Area would pay $85 a year.