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CA Legislators Tout Economic, Job Benefits of Climate Bills


Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon discusses his proposed package of climate change legislation, with co-author Senator Mark Leno to his right. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

 Yesterday, California legislators announced a package of bills that aim to show the state’s commitment to being a “climate change leader.”

Standing before a backdrop of a men and women representing labor and environmental advocacy, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon set out legislative goals that match those proposed by Governor Jerry Brown in his January inaugural speech. While the goals are environmental, Senator De Leon and his fellow legislators kept the focus on economic benefits and job growth.

The “clean tech” sector, said De Leon, is the fastest growing job sector in the state.

“Choosing between climate change policies and policies that build economic growth is a false choice,” he said. “California has proven that we can create jobs, lower utility bills, and rebuild our infrastructure, while cleaning up the air that we breathe into our lungs.”

Senator De Leon (D-Los Angeles), along with co-author Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), plans to introduce a new bill to achieve Brown’s “50-50-50” goals, what De Leon called “the Golden State Standards.” These are:

  • Increasing California’s renewable energy to 50 percent
  • Reducing petroleum use in the state by 50 percent
  • Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings by 50 percent

When questioned about specifics, De Leon responded that they will be figured out in the legislative process. “Let the dialogue begin,” he said. “We’re looking forward to having a very spirited, hard, open, cooperative, respectful dialogue,” with people from every side of the opinion spectrum.

Another bill included in the “climate change leadership package” is S.B. 32, already introduced by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). Pavley’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, A.B. 32, set greenhouse gas reduction goals for 2020 and created California’s cap-and-trade system, which funds planning and infrastructure projects to reduce emissions.

Pavley’s proposed bill seeks to extend the greenhouse gas emissions reductions goal to 2050, to reach 80 percent below 1990 levels. The proposal, consistent with the tone of yesterday’s press conference, touts “California’s proven model of growing the economy through pollution reduction,” which would be achieved by  providing “critical government accountability” and “certainty to businesses investing in California for the long term.”

Other bills in the package include S.B. 189 from Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) that would form a new state committee “to advise and inform clean energy and climate actions that ensure maximum job creation and economic benefits to all Californians,” and De Leon’s S.B. 185, which directs the two largest state pension funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS) to remove coal companies from their investment portfolios.

No one among the climate leaders nor the assembled press mentioned fracking and its environmental effects, nor the huge protests over that practice that brought people from around the state to Oakland this past weekend.

Instead, they kept the focus on jobs and the economy.  “We need to move the state away from fossil fuels and free consumers from the grip of oil prices,” said De Leon. “An economy built on fossil fuels is an economy built on shifting sands.”

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CA Taking Applications for Cap-and-Trade Transit-Oriented Housing Funds

[Update 2/11/15: the Oakland workshop is overbooked, but participants are invited to listen in via audiocast. At the time of the meeting (9:30 a.m. February 12), go to]

[Update 2/4/15: the date of the workshop in Oakland was changed to Thursday, February 12; change is reflected below.]

The Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program has issued its call for projects [PDF], and a series of technical assistance workshops begin today in San Diego.

The Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program will support projects that transform neglected, auto-dependent streets into vibrant mixed-use transit corridors. Image: Strategic Growth Council

The AHSC, which receives 20 percent of its funding through CA cap-and-trade, is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by promoting affordable, compact housing, active transportation and transit, and land preservation projects. It has ambitious goals, ranging from reducing air pollution to improving public health and conditions in disadvantaged communities. Eligible projects must fulfill a wide spectrum of criteria, and must incorporate several separate project components. For example, an eligible project might include affordable housing as well as a bike path connecting that housing to services.

These projects will require coordination between separate entities with differing mandates such as housing developers and transportation planners. Active transportation projects, including infrastructure and programming, can be eligible for funding from the AHSC.

Read more…


Report: CA Cap-and-Trade Program Is Up to Snuff

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The Environmental Defense Fund’s new report says California’s cap-and-trade system is succeeding

Note: The original post has been edited slightly to clear up a misconception. Companies subject to the emissions cap cannot pay for the right to exceed the cap.

The Environmental Defense Fund released a report this morning that says the second year of California’s cap-and-trade program is a success on several fronts.

The report, “Carbon Market California Year Two” [PDF], follows up on its first-year report by analyzing results from the 2013-14 cap-and-trade program.

Cap-and-trade is the part of California’s climate change law that puts teeth into the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It works by defining an upper limit, or “cap,” on emissions for different industry sectors, and creating credits per ton of carbon pollution.

Companies are allowed a certain number of “free” emission credits, and a limited number are also made available for auction — thus the “trade” part, wherein companies buy and sell credits amongst themselves. The total number of available credits, free and auctioned, equals the industry-wide emissions cap.

The cap is set to shrink over time as the state moves towards its carbon emission reduction goals, thus requiring companies to further reduce  emissions. At the same time, the price of emission allowances will rise as competition for them becomes hotter, and the more a company can reduce its emissions the fewer credits it will need.

Revenues from the auctions are to be used for projects that can help the state further reduce emissions, for example by building affordable housing near transit, although raising money is not one of the goals of the program.

According to the report, California is succeeding in limiting, pricing, and reducing emissions by getting industries to pay for the pollution they produce.

Key conclusions from the report after the jump: Read more…

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San Diego Fights CA Courts for Its Highway-Happy Plan to Increase Emissions

San Diego insists on its plans for greenhouse gas emissions to keep going in the wrong direction. Image from via Citylab

Despite what CA’s courts say, San Diego insists on plans to widen freeways in its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, even if it defies the state’s ambitions to reduce climate-changing car dependency.

As Eric Jaffe at CityLab wrote, the story is told in one simple chart created by opponents of the plan, which shows that it projects that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would rise through 2050. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) apparently has no problem with that.

SANDAG does expect its plan to meet short-term GHG reduction targets through 2020, as mandated by A.B. 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act. A.B. 32 sets specific GHG reduction targets through 2020, but the spirit of the law implies that emissions should continue dropping through 2050, as called for in an executive order from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the CA Air Resources Board’s scoping plan. A.B. 32’s author, State Senator Fran Pavley, has introduced a new bill for the 2015 session, S.B. 32, which aims to extend GHG reduction mandates through 2050.

But since the 2050 goals in the Governor’s executive order aren’t actually written into law, SANDAG argues that it doesn’t have to follow them. SANDAG lost the initial legal challenge against its plan, and lost its appeal, but now intends to take the case to the CA Supreme Court.

Jaffe writes:

SANDAG presented its plan as a balanced vision of highway improvements matched with transit expansion. But opponents (the state attorney general among them) said that by front-loading road projects, the plan ensured car dependency in the region for decades and ran counter to California’s climate goals.

On that last charge, SANDAG’s own numbers show that the … plan meets the state’s short-term emissions goals (established in a law known as S.B. 375). Greenhouse gases fall 14 percent by 2020 from current levels, and 13 percent by 2035. But by 2050, the plan estimates that emissions will have fallen just 10 percent, meaning for most of the plan’s duration they’ll actually be on the rise—the reason being an “increased demand for driving” as people moved into more remote areas of the region, according to SANDAG.

Whatever the current law says, SANDAG is willfully ignoring the facts on climate change, and denying the urgency of avoiding its impacts by changing business as usual. So far, the courts have not agreed with SANDAG’s short-sighted arguments.

SANDAG was the first region to adopt its long range plan after the passage of A.B. 32. Other regions in CA are paying close attention to San Diego’s legal wrangling, as it may set a precedent for long-term transportation planning throughout the state.


Exposed: Oil Industry’s Astroturf Tactics Against CA Cap-and-Trade

The Western States Petroleum Association extols its campaigns against cap-and-trade purporting to represent “consumer concerns.” Source: WSPA

It’s no surprise that the oil industry is fighting California’s cap-and-trade program. But it is enlightening to see the strategy laid out in a leaked PowerPoint presentation [PDF].

Last week, Brad Wieners at Bloomberg Businessweek leaked a presentation put together by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), an oil industry lobby firm that operates in California. In the presentation slides, WSPA details its strategy to oppose regulatory efforts in California, Oregon, and Washington to combat climate change, including California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (A.B. 32), low carbon fuel standards, and the cap-and-trade system.

Examples of oil industry astroturf campaigns in the states of Washington, Oregon, and California. Images via WSPA powerpoint [PDF]

Examples of oil industry astroturf campaigns in the states of Washington, Oregon, and California. Images via WSPA powerpoint [PDF]

The main strategy is what Wieners calls an “astroturf campaign”:

Groups with names such as Oregon Climate Change Campaign, Washington Consumers for Sound Fuel Policy, and AB 32 Implementation Group are made to look and sound like grassroots citizen-activists while promoting oil industry priorities and actually working against the implementation of AB 32.

One of those groups put together the “Stop the Hidden Gas Tax!” campaign, which tried to convince California consumers to protest against rising gas prices that will supposedly result from the fuel industry coming under cap-and-trade regulation in January. The campaign didn’t get much traction, perhaps because gas prices are falling, or perhaps because, as Tim O’Connor of the Environmental Defense Fund points out, California voters have support clean energy alternatives.

O’Connor told Business Week:

It’s eye-opening to see the lengths [the WSPA] has gone to push back rather than move forward. I don’t think anybody knew how cross-jurisdictional, cross-border, and extensive their investment is in creating a false consumer backlash against [climate legislation].

WSPA spokesperson Tupper Hull responded in the article:

We did not oppose AB 32 when it passed. We believe it’s good to have the reduction of greenhouse gases as a goal. We support that goal. [But] hundreds of pages of regulations have been added to what had been a page-and-a-half document, and we do object to many of the additions.”

However, WSPA took part in the formulation of those regulations.

A.B. 32, and its cap-and-trade regulations that charges industries money for the pollution they emit, is groundbreaking and frightening to big oil, as evidenced by WSPA’s presentation. It is just beginning to produce major funding streams for all kinds of sustainable programs, from affordable housing to transit to high speed rail, and the rest of the nation, and the world, are watching to see how well it succeeds. A.B. 32 could spawn climate change legislation elsewhere, equally noxious to the oil companies’ polluting habits, so no wonder they are attacking it every way they can.

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More Workshops on CA Affordable Housing Program

"Concept drawing" of an idealized street at the Strategic Growth Council website shows a mix of modes and multi-familuy dwellings.

“Concept drawing” of an idealized street at the Strategic Growth Council website shows a mix of modes and multi-family dwellings.

California’s Strategic Growth Council is holding a second round of workshops on its guidelines for spending cap-and-trade funds on affordable housing and sustainable communities. The draft guidelines [PDF] incorporate input gathered over the summer as well as at several packed workshops held throughout the state in August of this year.

The Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program was created this year with $130 million in funding from California’s cap-and-trade system. Its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by funding projects that connect land use and transportation, support infill and compact development, and contribute to other public policy goals including reducing air pollution, increasing mobility options, and increasing transit ridership.

The program is trying to do many things with not very much money. However, it is slated to receive an ongoing twenty percent of future annual cap-and-trade funds, which are expected to grow considerably in the next few years.

The draft guidelines set program requirements and eligibility, application procedures, and performance requirements. “We want to hear your ideas about the program and how it can best benefit your communities,” said Mike McCoy, the Strategic Growth Council’s executive director.

One of the sticking points at the last workshops was how to define and quantify benefits to disadvantaged communities, which by law must benefit from half of the program’s funding–but that was only one of many points of discussion. This round of workshops will not include the small group discussions of the past round, but staff members say there will be plenty of time for discussion and public comment.

The first in this round of workshops will be held in Merced today, October 23, from 1 to 4. Preregistration for all the workshops is necessary, and they will probably fill up, if the last series is an indication. However, as of today there are still tickets available for all of them. Read more…


Steinberg Kills Bill That Sought to Delay Cap-and-Trade on Fuels

Mobile billboard against the "hidden gas tax." Photo via CA Drivers Alliance Twitter

Mobile billboard against the “hidden gas tax.” Photo via CA Drivers Alliance Twitter

The misinformation campaigns trumpeting an imminent “hidden gas tax” in California lost a battle with the defeat of Assemblymember Henry Perea’s bill, A.B. 69, which was designed to delay application of cap-and-trade to the fuels industry for three years.

Fuel companies have already begun participating in the state’s cap-and-trade auctions, buying pollution credits that they can use to help them meet the greenhouse gas emission cap set by the state. Emission caps will not apply to the fuel industry until this coming January, but they have had years to prepare for it.

Senate President Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg sent a letter to Perea [PDF] explaining his decision not to let A.B. 69 go forward. The bill may not have had much of a chance of passing anyway, but this settles the question without the Senate or Assembly having to take it up in the final few days of the legislative session.

A.B. 69 was originally a bill about water quality, and had been considered and passed in the Assembly as such, when at the last minute Perea completely rewrote it, in what’s called a “gut and amend.” At that point, it was in the Senate, where it would have had to pass out of several committees and then pass with at least a two-thirds vote on the Senate floor before the Assembly could take it up.

Steinberg killed it in the Rules Committee. In his letter to Perea, he wrote that “bringing non-stationary fuels under the cap is not an unforeseen issue that demands legislation which sidesteps the democratic process.” And “a measure of this importance should not be considered in the final weeks of a two-year session.”

Read more…


Steinberg: CA Cap-and-Trade Must Fund Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing

Negotiations over the California state budget are producing dueling proposals on how best to spend revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program.


Senator Steinberg proposes affordable housing as a greenhouse gas reduction strategy. Photo courtesy TransForm.

While Governor Jerry Brown continues to call for a third of the cap-and-trade funds to go to CA high-speed rail, Senate President ProTem Darrell Steinberg last week expanded upon his alternative proposal to spend a larger share of the revenue on affordable housing and transit at the local and regional level.

State cap-and-trade funds are collected under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, A.B. 32. The law provides a way for companies to meet a state-mandated cap on greenhouse gas emissions by buying “pollution credits” produced when others exceed emissions reductions. Estimates vary on how much revenue the program will generate, but it could produce billions each year between now and 2020.

Standing in front of an active construction site for new housing units near Oakland’s MacArthur BART station last Thursday, Steinberg called for permanent sources of funding for affordable housing, mass transit, and sustainable communities development. The Senator argued that  California is facing a “catastrophic funding crisis” as affordable housing bonds run out, and noted that the transportation sector is the state’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Californians are logging more vehicle miles annually than ever before,” Steinberg said.

Behind him, a forklift raised a load of lumber high up in the air, with an attached sign reading, “At least 972 lbs of CO2 emissions reduced every day.” That’s the amount by which  the housing project, which will provide 624 housing units next to the BART station, is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to other housing developments. Of those apartments, 108 will be leased at below-market rates. Read more…


CA Transportation Choices Summit Tackles Policy Issues

The California Transportation Choices Summit, held in Sacramento this week, was an opportunity for sustainable transportation and public health advocates to spend the day learning about current state policies and legislation in the works to change them.

Christopher Cabaldon, Mayor of West Sacramento, discusses bike infrastructure on a pre-summit bike tour along the Sacramento River. Photos: Melanie Curry

This year’s summit was titled “2014: A Year of Opportunity.” The “opportunity” comes in the form of new funds from cap-and-trade and current discussions in the legislature about how to spend that money. As Streetsblog has reported, these funds are required to be spent on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which could include projects that encourage walking, bicycling, and transit.

The annual summit is hosted by TransForm and a long list of partners across the state including ClimatePlan, MoveLA, Circulate San Diego, the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, National Resources Defense Council, and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. In addition to discussing current policies, the learning day prepared attendees for TransForm’s “Advocacy Day,” in which participants meet with State Assembly members and their staff to talk about the issues that matter most to them and push for legislation.

Summit speakers laid out facts about funding, discussed trade-offs between spending on different programs, and urged everyone to share their personal stories about why their issue is important. “Let’s pull those heart strings,” said Elyse Lowe of Circulate San Diego, “so we can do a better job advocating for good transportation policies.”

Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, created an “applause-o-meter” to gauge summit attendees’ views on trade-offs between funding categories. He asked participants to applaud for the categories of activities they thought were most important: planning; bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure; transportation demand management programs like shuttles, carpool programs, and guaranteed ride home programs; affordable homes near transit; and transit capital and operating costs.

The audience, mostly comprised of savvy transportation advocates, applauded for all of these categories, although there two clear “winners”: affordable homes near transit and transit capital and operating costs. These also were the most expensive categories, according to Cohen’s estimate of how much it would cost to fully fund needs in these areas: $6 billion for transit and $1 to $1.5 billion for housing. Read more…


Updated Report Shows CAHSR’s GHG Reductions Less Costly Than Thought

UCLA’s Lewis Center revised some of the estimates in its recent report comparing the costs of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using California high-speed rail to those of bike, pedestrian, and local transit projects. The report’s authors found that high-speed rail is not as expensive as an emission reduction as they first thought.

Lewis_yellow_box_REVISED_copyThe update makes several adjustments to the analysis, which compared CAHSR to Los Angeles Metro’s Gold Line light rail and the Orange Line bus rapid transit route, as well as the bikeway that runs parallel to it. Originally, the report found high-speed rail to be a much less cost-effective way to reduce GHGs than any of the three urban transit options. While the new cost-benefit analysis for high-speed rail looks much better, it’s still not quite on par with local transit investments.

The new comparison of costs among high-speed rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and the bikeway is shown in the table below. As discussed in our previous story on this report, the authors consider anything less than the current price of a metric tonne of emissions under the cap-and-trade system (about $11) a cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The lower the cost, the greater the cost-effectiveness.

The UCLA authors’ new cost/benefit estimates.

The new estimate for CAHSR is -$335 per metric tonne, compared to the previous $361. Those estimates are the full public cost plus user savings (in the case of high-speed rail, that’s the price of a ticket compared to the cost of driving or flying). However, the bus rapid transit, light-rail, and bikeway are still more cost-effective at -$676, $1,233, and $3,569, respectively.

Here’s why the numbers changed: Read more…