California Extends Climate Fight to Help Disadvantaged Communities Battling Poverty and Pollution
SACRAMENTO — A series of measures to extend and strengthen California’s fight against climate change while enhancing benefits for communities battling poverty and pollution drew applause Thursday from the climate justice advocates of the SB 535 Coalition.
Following passage of SB 32 and AB 197, which extend the state’s effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, legislators Thursday took two more crucial steps to expand the benefits of these efforts in underserved communities. First, they passed legislation allocating $900 million already collected in the state’s carbon auctions to projects such as clean transportation, urban forestry, home weatherization and solar power that will benefit underserved California communities.
Additionally, the Legislature passed AB 1550 (Gomez), which will guarantee that going forward, at least 35 percent of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund proceeds will benefit underserved communities and low-income Californians.
“We applaud the Senate and Assembly leadership for improving the quality of life of all Californians by investing in the neighborhoods who are enduring the most severe poverty and neighborhoods most impacted by pollution,” said Parin Shah of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. “These communities, like the families we organize near the Richmond Chevron Refinery, will benefit most from improvements in renewable energy, affordable housing and public transit."
"The passage of this year’s climate legislation signifies a commitment to communities and families on the frontlines of climate change,” said SCOPE Research Director Laura Muraida. “AB 1550 raises the bar for implementing equitable climate policy at the local level."
Projects to be funded under the budget proposal include home energy saving and solar power for low-income families, tree planting in urban neighborhoods, and vouchers to help owners of older, gas-guzzling vehicles to replace their “clunker” with a clean electric or plug-in hybrid car. Advocates applauded the allocation of $140 million to Transformative Climate Communities, an innovative proposal to “connect the dots” and fund coordinated efforts in a variety of program areas (such as energy efficiency, transportation and affordable housing) that will work together to bring real benefits to communities in need.
“As California continues to reduce planet-warming emissions, these newly passed bills will bring needed relief to our communities that have suffered the worst effects of pollution, injustice and disinvestment,” said Bill Magavern, Policy Director for Coalition for Clean Air. “All Californians will breathe easier because of this year’s productive package of climate legislation.”
“In the midst of a crucial debate about the future of California climate policy, the Legislature is taking a big step to fight both pollution and poverty using money paid by polluters,” said Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Director Alvaro Sanchez. “This proposal means real help to low-income families and their neighborhoods -- $900 million worth.”
Under AB 32 (NuÃ±ez/Pavley), money raised by charging polluters for carbon permits under the state’s cap-and-trade system goes to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to pay for projects that further cut carbon emissions. A second law, SB 535 (De LeÃ³n) directs at least one quarter of these funds to projects benefitting highly polluted, economically disadvantaged communities, with at least 10 percent going to projects located directly within these communities. AB 1550 expands on these earlier requirements.
“We are excited for the passage of AB 1550 because it will, for the first time, mandate that clean air and energy projects benefit low income people across California,” said Chelsea Tu, Staff Attorney for Public Advocates.
Last year, The Greenlining Institute collected 10 case studies that illustrate the impact of California’s climate investments. Stories of real Californians impacted by these clean energy policies, as well as background on the laws themselves, can be found at UpliftCA.org (English) and es.UpLiftCA.org (Spanish).