Pollution.Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

After a period of legal uncertainty, a California court has ruled that the state can proceed with developing a cap-and-trade program.

Last month, a Superior Court judge put a temporary hold on the program, saying that California’s Air Resources Board hadn’t properly explored alternatives to a cap-and-trade system. This latest ruling allows regulators to keep working on the details of the market structure as the court deliberates the matter:

A source with the appellate court said it could take well over a year before the busy court weighed in on the matter, which should give state regulators enough time to complete work on the details of a carbon market this year, lawyers said.

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“Absent any further appeal or development, this means that California is permitted to continue work on its cap-and-trade program while the appellate court hears the full merits of the state’s appeal of a lower court’s decision,” Cara Horowitz, an attorney with the UCLA Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, said on Friday.

California plans to roll out the cap-and-trade system by January of 2012. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The decision in May to halt the program had some regulators and industry professionals concerned that the implementation date would be pushed back by a year or more.

Some of the opposition to cap-and-trade came from environmental groups concerned about the complexity of cap-and-trade, saying that the governor and regulators didn’t properly assess alternatives that might be simpler and more effective at lowering greenhouse-gas emissions.

A cap-and-trade system is only one piece of the Global Warming Solutions Act. The emissions-reduction plan also includes a renewable energy target and a low-carbon fuel standard, neither of which were affected by the legal uncertainty around cap-and-trade.

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