The revenue generated from California’s 2006 global warming law (AB 32) is making the air cleaner, saving families money and bringing green jobs to some of the state’s most disadvantaged communities.
The Greenlining Institute evaluated 10 of the projects that were funded in fiscal year 2015 through polluter fees generated by the cap-and-trade law. It requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.
To achieve this target, the California Air Resources Board put a cap on the amount of air pollution that an industrial plant can produce, and requires it to pay a penalty when it exceeds its limits by purchasing “credits.”
Two other bills followed in 2012, which establish how proceeds from the sale of carbon permits will be spent under the cap-and-trade regulations. SB 535, sponsored by a broad coalition of environmentalists and civil rights groups, including The Greenlining Institute, ensures that at least 25 percent of the money goes to projects that benefit disadvantaged areas. Also, at least 10 percent of funds going to projects must be located within disadvantaged communities.
The second bill that was passed, AB 1532, created a framework and process for investing cap-and-trade auction revenues.
In Central California’s San Joaquin Valley, a region believed to have more old cars than any other part of the state, the 14-year-old nonprofit Valley CAN has moved into high gear to pursue the Charge Ahead California Initiative enshrined in SB 535. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. This law aims to place 1 million zero emission or near-zero emission vehicles on the road by 2023.
Valley CAN’s executive director Tom Knox said that Valley residents spend way too much money on their old clunkers, which pollute the atmosphere, making the largely agricultural area “the most environmentally impacted in the state.” In the San Joaquin Valley, he said, “Old cars never die, they just keep accumulating.”
Up until June, Valley CAN focused primarily on smog repairs. But now, with money from the cap-and-trade program becoming available, “We are able to get people out of older cars that use a lot of gas and are hard to maintain, and send them back in a newer car,” Knox said. Although the replacement could be a gas-run vehicle, most will be plug-in hybrids or electric cars, Knox said.
Individuals who choose to scrap their vehicles without replacing it would be eligible for public transit passes valued at between $2,500 and $4,500, depending on their income.
The Enhanced Fleet Modernization program not only reduces emissions, Knox said, but “it’s one of the most direct ways to empower the household.” All the cash families save from having a cleaner car can be spent on programs to empower themselves like going back to school. And lower emissions of course translate into better health outcomes for Valley residents.
In the mostly rural Central Valley, Salinas Valley and Imperial County, Cal VAN’s 15-passenger van pools have been allowing farm workers to get to work safely and reliably, eliminating millions of vehicle miles and increasing worker mobility, according to the Greenlining Institute’s evaluation report. Farm workers tend to own vehicles that are older, unreliable and highly polluting. These factors limit their ability to get to work, or take higher paying jobs that may be a greater distance from home.
Cal VAN’s executive director Ron Hughes said a 1999 road accident in Fresno County that killed 13 farmworkers was the catalyst inspiring him to start the van-pool project.
Hughes said money from the green-house gas reduction program would help his public transit agency to add another 15 vans to its 500-strong fleet.
Other projects that have scored well in The Greenlining Institutes performance evaluation are:
• Fresno County, Food to Share program: Nutritious food that would otherwise end up in landfills is collected from such places as supermarkets and restaurants and shared with food kitchens, pantries and distribution centers. Aside from feeding hungry families, the program also helps to reduce methane gas emissions that are generated from rotting food. An estimated 110,000 tons of food will be diverted toward the Food to Share program.
• Sacramento, Weatherization Program: Provides solar power to more than 1,600 low-income families through 2016.
• Fresno, Weatherization Program: An estimated 1,212 low-income families are receiving solar power systems, reducing carbon dioxide by more than 113,000 metric tons over 25 years. The program has created 30 new jobs.
• Los Angeles, Green Street Through Community Engagement: Two low-income neighborhoods will receive 1,120 trees, removing 1,986 tons of greenhouse gases from the air, improving air quality, enhancing neighborhoods and reducing heat island-effects.
• Oakland, Green Innovations: Low-income “flatlands” neighborhoods along a major transit corridor will receive 1,100 trees, improving air quality, while reducing greenhouse gases.
• San Bernardino County, Montclair Community Fruit Park: The city and local residents have turned a one-third acre piece of underutilized public land into a park with fruit trees, providing shade, enhanced public space and the air-cleaning action of trees.
• San Diego County’s National City, Paradise Creek Homes: One of the state’s most disadvantaged communities will receive 201 apartments affordable to low-income households, and accessible to transit. The program is also designed to promote walking and cycling, as well as a new park.
• Los Angeles, Boyle Heights: If funded, 31 apartments affordable to lower-income households will be built in the low-income Boyle Heights neighborhood served by light rail, bus lines and new bike lines. This project narrowly missed first-round funding because fund distribution for the region had maxed out.
Greenlining’s Environmental Equity Director Alvaro Sanchez, who authored the evaluation report, said that the programs his report focused on were already up and running even before AB 32 funds were awarded to them.
“Getting additional money just means they can do more,” Sanchez said.