The Riggs Report: A Capitol feeding frenzy
September 14, 2017
Vote nears on how to spend $1.5B in climate change funds
One longtime Capitol insider describes it as “a feeding frenzy: That’s what happens when a large pot of money, in this case roughly $1.5 billion, is available to spend on broad efforts to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality across California.
There are a lot of different groups who want to stake their claim in this mini-Gold Rush.
That’s why clean air folks, agricultural interests, clean energy researchers and car manufacturers, among others, have been engaged in negotiations with the Brown administration in recent weeks.
The end result is a spending package that represents a key bit of unfinished business facing the state Legislature in the dying days of the current session.
The money comes from California’s landmark cap-and-trade program, a key priority of Gov. Jerry Brown, which the Legislature voted to extend this past summer. That brought to an end political uncertainty about the program, which first went into effect in 2012.
The program’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Under cap-and-trade, credits are auctioned to raise funds, with polluting industries and businesses buying the credits in order to exceed their pollution caps. Those funds are then available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by bringing more clean technology into play.
Where is all that money going?
Under the deal, hatched this week, the bulk of the funds from the auction proceeds—about $560 million—is earmarked to provide rebates for buyers of low-emission cars, to replace and retrofit older buses and trucks, and to install clean-burning equipment in the state’s ports.
Another $200 million is directed toward reducing fire danger by improving forest health, and $300 million is intended to fund efforts to measure and reduce pollution at the neighborhood level.
In addition, $20 million would be spent to better insulate low-income housing and thus improve energy efficiency.
The plan that emerged this week, in large part, reflects the spending priorities the Brown administration outlined at the end of August. In other words, the Legislature is giving Brown most of what he wants.
Not everyone will be happy with how the money is earmarked, but passing this package will be largely free of the drama that surrounded the vote in July to extend the cap-and-trade program.
That required a two-thirds vote in order to protect against legal challenges, requiring some Republican votes.
The current plan only needs a simple majority to pass and be sent to the governor’s desk.