by:  Gwen Miyashiro

A plan adopted by the California Air Resources Board yesterday could lead to the clearcutting of California forests.

Under the plan, businesses can pay for excessive emissions by buying credits if they are unable to reduce their carbon dioxide levels. Up to 8 percent of emissions can be covered through offsets. Offsets are environmental actions such as planting trees to mitigate pollution.

Environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club called for changes in the offset program involving forests during a public hearing ahead of adoption of the plan. They appealed to the Board saying that the rule as written would encourage clearcutting of forests on land that might be eligible for tree-planting credits. The result would be swaths of forests with trees of the same age and fewer old-growth forests.

Board members briefly discussed changing the regulation, citing the concerns of environmentalists and residents of the Sierra Nevada who made their case through phone calls, in-person appearances before the board and–in the case of activists the Raging Grannies–through a video of songs they performed about the issue.

The Air Resources Board, however, voted to pass the regulation, without much discussion.

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