Fixing Cap-And-Trade, One Step at a Time

On January 5, 2012, Governor Brown submitted his proposed Budget for 2012-2013 to the State Legislature.  In his proposal, Brown addresses the need to invest in creating jobs and delivering public health, economic, and environmental benefits. He suggests that proceeds from the cap-and-trade# auctions, which are expected to be $1 billion in the first year of the program, should be used for such investments.

Even before Governor Brown’s proposal was released, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights’ Green Collar Jobs Campaign advocated for a similar policy by working with State Senator Kevin de Leon and a number of allies in public health and environmental justice to push Senate Bill 535.

This bill would set aside a portion of the money collected by CARB to benefit communities that are most impacted by air pollution and socioeconomic vulnerability.  SB 535 establishes the “California Communities Healthy Air Revitalization Trust” to target 10% of cap-and-trade revenues to jobs and projects in the most impacted and disadvantaged communities.  Senator de Leon introduced this bill while Schwarzenegger was still Governor, and firmly pushed again in 2011 and 2012.  If SB 535 passes, this money will be used to fund projects that create green collar jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate direct health effects of climate change.

Although the Governor’s proposal has a lot in common with SB 535, the details spelled out in SB 535 afford greater protection to the people who need it the most. While Brown’s language makes me happy that our Governor is ready to prioritize the needs of our communities, its ambiguity makes me worried that such efforts won’t be realized as strongly as they would be if our lawmakers would pass SB 535. Still, the Governor’s language also suggests that he would probably support efforts like SB 535 in moving forward. This is great!

Senator de Leon’s bill also includes a mandate that CARB shall convene a review panel consisting of seven experts in air pollution, public health, energy efficiency, transportation, economics, and running a small business. Three of these members shall also have demonstrated knowledge and experience in advancing community interests in the area of environmental protection.  This panel shall make recommendations and review the development of policies, plans, and programs as they relate to SB 535. In other words, community advocates would help CARB make better decisions about how to spend money in a way that benefits the least well off.

In contrast, Governor Brown’s budget proposal provides that “an expenditure plan be jointly submitted by the Director of Finance and the Air Resources Board.” The proposal says nothing about who shall help the Director of Finance and Air Resources Board in making expenditure decisions.

That’s why urging our representatives to support SB 535 is imperative to advancing our communities’ needs. Together, we can start to build a thriving, green economy that puts the planet and people first.