Beyond Cap and Trade: The fight to improve air quality continues

Beyond Cap and Trade: The fight to improve air quality continues

California has a long, proud history of leading the nation and the world in advancing innovative and impactful policies to address climate change and improve air quality. From the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, to establishing the first in the nation low carbon fuel standards, to raising fuel economy requirements and moving towards 100% renewable power, what happens in California shapes policy at home and across the country. And no other state has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and set clean air standards for the rest of the country.

With new and unprecedented threats to our environment from the Trump Administration, it is crucial for California to continue to lead efforts to address climate change, protect our communities and our state. On Monday night the legislature showed that leading is possible, passing crucial legislation which extends and strengthens California’s landmark Cap and Trade program and legislation that will help to address some of the state’s critical clean air needs. Our legislators and Governor Brown sent a clear message to the rest of the nation and the world that California will continue to lead on climate – no matter what the Trump Administration has to say about it.

Together with our existing policies, these key pieces of legislation extend our state’s successful Cap and Trade program, protect the system from legal challenges, and codify our Low Carbon Fuels Standards in statute for the first time – regulations crucial to reaching our carbon reduction targets set last year by SB 32 (Pavley).

Along with the Cap and Trade extension, AB 617 (Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Garcia) passed to address and improve air quality in communities across California. This bill will ensure refineries and industry adopt the most effective mitigation technologies on a faster timeline, increases penalties for polluters who break the law, and continues investments in our communities to improve air quality. As a package, these bills will increase investments in clean technologies, require more funding be spent on projects within California to directly benefit our communities, and bolster the long-term stability of our Cap and Trade Program.

But this is only one step in a much larger fight to improve air quality for families and neighborhoods across our state, especially for our most impacted communities. The next step is to make certain that when the revenues generated by the cap and trade auction are allocated, the projects at the top of the list will prioritize those investments that will bring real air quality improvements in the places that need it most.

The task of best allocating these funds is no small matter, and as the Sacramento Bee noted in their recent editorial a one-size fits all solution is not the best path forward: "Mitigation ought to be different in Wilmington, Martinez and Richmond, where there are refineries and heavy use of diesel trucks, than in Sacramento or Fresno, where there are few smoke stacks, but where the air too often is unhealthy."

Beyond allocations of funding, we must look to future legislation and regulatory efforts to directly reduce threats to air quality and public health. We need to continue the fight to ensure fossil fuel companies and polluters aren’t profiting at the expense of the health, livelihood, and opportunity of our most impacted communities. We must support direct regulations to accelerate reductions of climate pollutants from both stationary sources and from our cars, trucks, and other transportation sources. As we look forward, CLCV is committed to working with our members, allies, and community partners to support policies and programs that will put community benefits first.

As is too often the case, improving the average air quality means nothing to communities living in the shadow of refineries, ports, and factories whose air quality for too long has been allowed to cause disproportionate impacts to health. This week’s accomplishment is a big one for California and for the country. We also know it is a small step in the path towards what is needed to truly address climate change, and what is needed to make sure all of California’s families have clean air to breathe.

Posted on July 20, 2017 in Groundswell Blog.

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