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Brown Signs Bills Distributing Cap And Trade Revenues

Billy Wilson / Flickr

Billy Wilson / Flickr

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a package of four bills that spend money raised through California’s “cap and trade” greenhouse gas reduction program. It's part of a new effort to fight climate change in California’s disadvantaged communities.

As he signed the bills in Fresno Wednesday, Brown took great pains to make the point that fighting climate change isn’t just for rich people who live on the California coast.

“This is a bill that aims to fix up the air, make things better, more livable, for everybody – and that’s good, because we are what we breathe and what we eat and all the rest of it,” the governor said.

Brown and Democratic legislative leaders reached a deal on the final day of session last month to spend $900 million.

“We wanted to make sure that disadvantaged communities were served – not only disadvantaged but also under-served communities, communities that traditionally haven’t received a lot of the benefits from these programs,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said.

Among the programs winning new spending: public transportation, clean vehicle rebates and reducing methane emissions from cows.

The cap and trade program's legal future is uncertain, however. A state appeals court has signaled it's weighing whether the program is an unconstitutional tax. Winning legal approval will likely be one of Brown's top priorities next year, although that will require a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Legislature.

Advocates Question Effectiveness Of California Climate Aid

On the same day the governor signed the cap and trade bills, a new analysis from “environmental justice” advocates suggests the program has failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the state’s low-income and minority communities.

The report says that even though California has reduced its pollution overall, emissions within the state actually went up. That’s because instead of reducing their pollution inside California, companies paid to offset it elsewhere – and many of the largest-emitting factories are in low-income parts of California.

“Seventy-five percent of those offsets were outside the state of California – the bulk of them for buying forest land,“ says USC’s Manuel Pastor, who helped conduct the study. “That may benefit the planet; it’s not clear it reduces emissions in low-income communities of color.”

Pastor says the legislation signed by the governor Wednesday is a step in the right direction.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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