Category Archives: Politics

California’s Legislative Session Ends With An Important Step Forward for AB 32 – The Stage is Now Set for a Carbon Price and Wise Investment of Permit Auction Proceeds

Like most legislative sessions in California’s recent history, the session that ended last Friday at midnight included a flurry of activity up until the final minute.  For California’s AB 32 though, Friday’s closing moments were not just exciting, they were groundbreaking for climate policy.

After nearly 2 years of deliberation – the Legislature charted a clear path toward full implementation of the state’s landmark cap-and-trade regulation by resolving a contentious debate over whether and how to wisely invest the proceeds of the regulation’s permit auction.  That debate, whether cap-and-trade should raise money in a greenhouse gas (GHG) permit auction process, was brought back to life when a letter from 56 prominent economists to Governor Brown urging him to not delay or scale back the auction was met with a similar letter from several state legislators taking the opposite position.  Friday’s legislative action appears to have resolved that issue – meaning all signs are go for launch of the state’s comprehensive climate change regulation in November.

The legislature passed two bills, AB 1532 and SB 535, establishing a framework for deciding how to distribute the proceeds from the state’s upcoming auction of GHG permits.  A core part of the approach, laid out in detail in AB 1532, is ensuring that all money raised in the auction be used to further the goals of the law (to reduce climate change pollution), and that spending decisions be made transparently, and in consultation with state agencies.  SB 535 stipulates that some of the money must be used to the benefit of disadvantaged communities who already share the large brunt of California’s degraded air quality.

Though any legislative proposal is potentially subject to veto by the governor, EDF expects and is actively urging Governor Brown to sign both AB 1532 and SB 535 into law as quickly as possible.

By passing a comprehensive bill package that sets out how expenditure decisions are developed and made, and also ensuring that those decisions be in compliance with established legal standards,  the legislature has put to rest the question over whether to move forward with the program as planned.  Now, with AB1532 and SB535, the legislature has decided how to move forward with the program – giving a clear signal that cap-and-trade is intended to proceed in November 2012.

More detail on AB 1532, SB 535 and use of AB 32 auction proceeds:

AB 1532, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Perez, establishes a 3-year investment plan process for investing auction proceeds in projects that reduce GHGs through activities like renewable energy and energy efficiency, advanced vehicles, water and natural resource conservation, and waste reduction. These investments are scheduled to start in the 2013-14 fiscal year.  The bill requires the investment plan be developed though a specified agency consultation process that includes public participation.

SB 535, sponsored by Senator De Leon, requires a minimum of 25% of CARB’s auction proceeds to be used in ways that benefit disadvantaged communities, either directly or indirectly.  It also requires a minimum of 10% of auction proceeds directly fund projects within those communities.

Use of AB 32 auction proceeds – Wise investment of cap-and-trade auction proceeds can be an integral part of achieving these AB 32 emission reduction goals. As detailed in our June 2012 report, Invest to Grow, targeted investment of AB 32 proceeds can bolster California’s green energy economy, creating jobs and providing a new wave of customers to California businesses operating in sectors providing clean energy solutions.  In addition, investment of auction proceeds into energy efficiency and clean energy will reduce air pollution, thereby improving health and air quality, fill gaps created by reduced state and federal funding, accelerate energy independence, and save businesses money by reducing energy demand.

Also posted in Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32| Comments closed

Governor Brown and the U.S. Navy are making maneuvers with California clean energy companies to showcase real progress

This week, the U.S. Navy and the Office of California Governor Jerry Brown are teaming up to put on display the blossoming relationship between California’s clean energy industry and the U.S. Navy, part of the nation’s biggest energy consumer, the U.S. Department of Defense.

The fact that the U.S. Navy and the clean energy companies featured in the Clean Energy Showcase event – Borrego Solar, Solar City and Biodico, to name just a few – are nurturing this partnership is enormously telling of the direction that the mainstream of our country is moving in. And by providing a platform for this event, Governor Brown is shining a much-needed light on the numerous advantages to this significant public-private sector alliance, and continuing to bolster California’s impressive clean energy credentials.

It’s clear that Brown is applying the power of his office to set ambitious clean energy goals for the state – he already set a goal that the state will have 20,000 megawatts of new renewable energy on the grid by 2020. This newer role however is a clear signal that he is also committed to fostering clean energy links that will provide benefits throughout the state’s economy. In his role as convener, Brown sends a powerful message to all sectors – that they too can contribute to and benefit from California’s surge towards a clean energy future.

For its part, the Navy’s energy management strategies are an entirely pragmatic response to climate change, the complex security landscape and the realities of a squeezed budget. These three challenges represent three corners of a triangle, each inextricably linked to the other. As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said back in May, “As someone who now faces a budget shortfall exceeding $3 billion because of higher-than-expected fuel costs, I have a deep interest in more sustainable and efficient energy options.”

Not only is the U.S. military out ahead on this issue, but so is California. Ready to implement America’s first carbon emissions trading market, California has already become a magnet for clean energy investment. And, as described in our new report Invest to Grow, the investment opportunities created by this law will provide numerous benefits to the existing landscape of companies throughout the state that are already providing clean energy and energy efficiency products and services.

Climate change, national energy security and constrained budgets are weighty issues for not just the military, but for the state of California. This week’s Clean Energy Showcase provides an opportunity for our country’s most innovative, practical and pragmatic forces – business and military – to publicly shine a light on the clear path forward. Under the wing of Governor Brown’s administration, this partnership can help further California progress towards a more responsible, and secure, clean economy.

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate| Comments closed

California LAO Report Highlights Key Benefits of Cap-and-Trade

The cap-and-trade report released late last week by California’s Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) confirms the state’s strategy to use cap-and-trade as a cost-effective way to reduce climate pollution under its landmark climate and clean energy law, AB 32.

This is another sign of good news for the California program, which will deliver significant environmental, economic and public health benefits to the state.

The 36-page report provides a valuable public service by describing the program’s key features and an accurate comparison of the differences between the market-based program, carbon taxes and other command-and-control approaches. 

As an advocate for cost-effective pollution reduction regulations that inspire innovation and reward over-compliance, EDF is encouraged to see the LAO agreeing that market mechanisms are generally a preferable way to cut pollution and more cost effective than other approaches.  EDF also supports the LAO’s finding that it will provide a backstop to other measures that California will use to reduce climate pollution to 1990 levels by 2020.

The LAO believes that California's Air Resources Board (ARB) made reasonable choices when designing the program and that it will achieve its reduction targets. Specifically, it states:  

‘Our analysis indicates that, for the most part, the ARB has made a reasonable effort to balance these various policy trade-offs in the particular design of the cap-and-trade program it has adopted in its regulations. Based on our economic and policy analysis of the ARB’s package, for example, we believe the cap-and-trade program would likely function fairly effectively in terms of achieving the targeted level of GHG emissions reductions required under AB 32.’

While this recent analysis is welcome news for a program that is planned to start market operations in the second half of 2012, there is one point that needs to be corrected. In considering design tradeoffs related to program allowances, the report argues that by starting with a number of free allowances, ‘entities would emit more than if they had to pay for the allowances.’  We disagree. The reality of free allowances is that the opportunity cost will continue to inspire companies to cut pollution. If firms with free allowances pollute less than the amount they are allowed to, they can profit by selling allowances they don’t need. 

In addition to discussing the allowance structure, the report includes valuable details about the role that offsets will play.  Not only can offsets keep overall compliance costs in check for regulated businesses, they can deliver vast economic and environmental benefits for landowners, farmers and foresters who voluntarily participate by documenting emissions reductions and generating sellable credits.   Additionally, offsets provide critical incentives for reducing deforestation in tropical countries, which is the source of 15 percent of global climate pollution.

This new resource from the LAO could prove valuable as ARB puts the finishing touches on the program over the next year.  The agency's positive views reflect one of our key points: cap-and-trade guarantees reductions, and at the lowest cost. Additionally, the report can inform the legislature as it decides how to invest allowance revenues to further drive our clean energy economy, create jobs and improve our ability to compete in the multi-billion dollar clean energy market.

Also posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32| Comments closed

New Dungeness crab law protects permitted fishermen and crab habitats

Fresh Dungeness crab catch of the day

California’s Dungeness crab fishery is one of the state’s largest and most important commercial fisheries and is an economic foundation for many of California’s ports.  A bill recently passed by the California Legislature, SB 369 (Evans), will cap the number of traps that individual fishermen can use.  This will not only protect crab populations for generations to come, but will protect the economic viability of the fishery and the coastal communities that rely on it.

The problem is that the number of crab traps being used in the fishery escalates each season as fishermen race to catch crab. This “arms race” creates unnecessary ecological impacts and threatens the long-term economic health of the fishery. This frenzied derby effect leads to a glut of crab on the market at the beginning of the season and correspondingly depresses the value of crab. It also leads to significant safety risks as the intense pressure to compete during the initial weeks of the season can lead fishermen to go out in dangerous winter weather.  This resulted in broad recognition among fishermen that trap limits are needed, but until now, agreement on what those limits should be could not be reached.

Bay Area crab fisherman preparing for the catch. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

To help address this problem, Environmental Defense Fund was approached by a group of crab fishermen in 2008 to help sponsor a bill (SB 1690 – Wiggins) to create the Dungeness Crab Task Force.  The group was charged with developing recommendations to the Legislature to address the challenges facing the fishery, including the “arms race.” It was comprised of an elected group of diverse fishermen from all major crab ports and representing both large and small boats. The group met during 2009 and 2010 and came to consensus on the design for a trap limit in the fishery. The new law incorporates the recommendations of the Dungeness Crab Force. Fishermen are broken out into 7 “tiers” basedon how much crab they’ve landed in the past. Fishermen who have landed the most can fish with 500 traps and those who have historically landedthe least can fish with 175.  The law also includes sufficient fees to cover all of the costs identified by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and was passed with bipartisan support by the Legislature. It’s supported by major fishing organizations such as the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and the Crab Boat Owners Association, as well as environmental groups such as EDF, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council

Let's thank Governor Brown for passing SB 369 and helping to ensure the long term biological and economic sustainability of California Dungeness crab fishery, while at the same time promoting fishermen safety at sea.


Also posted in Ecosystem Restoration, Ecosystem Services, General, Pacific Ocean| Comments closed

Clean Air Act Benefits Exceed Costs More Than 30-to-1

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released a report on the Clean Air Act that would make any investor proud. It shows that for every dollar spent on regulations to cut air pollution over the last 30 years, we’ve earned more than $30 in savings to go along with tremendous public health benefits.

Members of Congress have spent much of the last two months trying to roll back clean air protections. They’ve argued that the Clean Air Act is bad for the economy. This report shows otherwise. As EDF’s president Fred Krupp notes, “If anyone still doubts that America can afford to do the right thing, this report should settle the matter. Cleaner air will unquestionably improve our health, our economy, and our lives.”

California still ranks among the states with the worst air pollution. Just this week, Forbes released a list of the ten most toxic cities in America. Four of them are California cities: Bakersfield (2nd place), Fresno (3rd place), Los Angeles (6th place) and Riverside-San Bernardino (10th). Poor air quality was a major reason they qualified.

Ironically, all of those cities have improved their air quality in the last decade. The trouble is that they’ve also grown dramatically, which has only added to the number of vehicles and other sources of pollution. Can you imagine how much pollution—and lung disease—we’d have in those cities and around the country if tailpipe and power plant pollution controls had not been in place these last 30 years?

California needs the Clean Air Act for many reasons, but the economic benefits particularly stand out. An earlier peer-reviewed study found that dirty air in the Los Angeles Air Basin costs local residents nearly $22 billion a year in health costs, premature death, lost days at work and lost days at school. In the San Joaquin Valley, the annual costs amount to about $6 billion.

Think about it: that’s $28 billion in costs each and every year—nearly as much as it would take to resolve the state’s budget deficit this year.

Now add EPA’s new study showing that we get $30 worth of value on every dollar invested in clean air and another thing becomes clear: those who are working to weaken the Clean Air Act and reduce EPA’s authority are effectively selling an investment that’s returned billions of dollars to our economy.

A  poll released last month by the American Lung Association found that three out of four Americans support the EPA setting tougher standards on specific air pollutants, including mercury, smog and carbon dioxide. It also found that 68 percent of voters oppose Congressional action that impedes the EPA from updating clean air standards generally and 64 percent oppose Congressional efforts to stop the EPA from updating standards on carbon dioxide.  If you want to protect these economic benefits and help prevent putting tens of thousands of lives at risk, you can voice your support for the Clean Air Act and the EPA by clicking here.

Also posted in Climate| Comments closed

Attacks on Clean Air Act Threaten Healthy Air for America and California’s Environmental Leadership

Would Stop Clean Cars Program, Put Pollution Reduction Goals at Risk and Threaten State’s Communities

Attacks on America’s landmark clean air law intensified on Wednesday in Washington D.C. The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Power Subcommittee held its first hearing on a draft bill to undermine the country’s Clean Air Act.

The attacks take direct aim at California’s long-standing clean cars program – vital clean air measures that have protected California’s health and environment for more than 40 years.  

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) — and a companion version of the bill in the Senate sponsored by Jim Inhofe (R-OK) — would strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned update to improve the act’s pollution limits by addressing greenhouse gases (GHG).  

Among other things, the bill would:

  • Overturn the EPA’s independent scientific determination that greenhouse gas pollution endangers human health;
  • Overturn the Supreme Court’s finding affirming that the EPA has the authority and responsibility to regulate those emissions,
  • Block EPA’s measures to require the nation’s largest industrial emitters to deploy cost-effective pollution mitigation at the time of construction or modernization; and
  • Prohibit the EPA from requiring additional GHG reductions from motor vehicles and repeal California’s long-standing authority to regulate these harmful emissions.

What hasn’t been reported so far is the blow this legislative attack would have on California’s successful environmental leadership, a record that has delivered tremendous health and economic benefits to Californians and to all Americans.   

Many of the folks I’ve spoken with believe that environmental attacks in D.C. won’t really impact California since we have our own air pollution limits and groundbreaking environmental standards. In this particular case, unfortunately, they’re wrong. 

If this bill becomes law, California will be prohibited from limiting global warming pollution from vehicles, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the state’s emissions. Blocking California’s ability to reduce pollution within its borders would mean:

  • more pollution;
  • less fuel efficiency in cars and trucks; and
  • sagging demand for innovative hybrids and electric vehicles.

This would cripple California’s ability to cut pollution to 1990 levels by 2020 as required by the state’s landmark clean energy and climate change law, AB 32.  It would also mean importing more oil from unstable and unfriendly governments, and forcing California drivers to pay more at the pump.

James Goldstene, executive officer of California’s Air Resources Board (CARB), the primary agency charged with protecting the state’s air quality and overseeing implementation of AB 32 testified at yesterday’s congressional hearing. He said that California has established pollution standards for new vehicles sold in the state since the 1960s. Since the 1980s, each successive California standard has gone on to become the national standard.

“Preempting the authority for EPA to regulate the emissions of vehicles would rob this country of one of its most powerful tools not just to reduce carbon pollution, but also to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and to save consumers money. And every dollar not spent on foreign oil is a dollar spent here.”

Last year, the EPA adopted the first national greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model year 2012-2016 vehicles. These were based on California’s standards, which 13 other states had adopted. They are expected to improve fuel efficiency by about five percent annually, reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gases 21 percent by 2030 and save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program.

Upton’s bill “changes the manner in which motor vehicles have been regulated in the United States for 40 years” and would prohibit the EPA and California from establishing new tailpipe emissions standards and from making further revisions to the standards announced last year.

As EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson noted in her testimony at the hearing, Chairman Upton’s draft bill would eliminate portions of the Clean Air Act that “saves millions of American children and adults from the debilitating and expensive illnesses that occur when smokestacks and tailpipes release unrestricted amounts of harmful pollution into the air we breathe.”

Last year alone, EPA’s implementation of the act:

  • saved more than 160,000 American lives;
  • avoided more than 100,000 hospital visits;
  • prevented millions of cases of respiratory illness, including bronchitis and asthma;
  • enhanced American productivity by preventing millions of lost workdays; and
  • kept American kids healthy and in school.

According to Jackson, it also contributed to dynamic growth in our domestic clean tech industry, which in 2008, generated nearly $300 billion in revenues and $44 billion in exports.

Californians pride themselves on their state’s innovation. If we want to continue this leadership role, Upton’s bill, and other like-minded attacks, must be defeated.

EDF will continue working with our allies to protect the Clean Air Act, which an overwhelming majority of Americans and tens of thousands of businesses support–for good reason.

Also posted in Climate| Comments closed

California Answers Obama's Call to Seize Our Sputnik Moment

Yesterday’s launch of the “Clean Energy Jobs Initiative” by California’s Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez proved yet again that they are clean energy champions who understand that using smart energy investments, incentives and policies can accelerate the state’s economic recovery and growth.

California is known for innovating game-changing technologies and this initiative will help bolster its ability to compete for a leadership position in the fast-growing, multi-billion dollar clean energy market.

The legislative leaders’ new plan will fuel the fastest-growing economic sector: clean technology.  By increasing demand for renewable energy, expanding incentives for energy efficiency and training a vibrant, talented ‘green’ work force, the “Clean Energy Jobs Initiative” will grow the state’s economy and put more people to work. California already attracts 60 percent of all clean tech venture capital in North America. Over the last five years, more than $9 billion in venture capital has been invested here. The results are hundreds of thousands of new jobs, more than 10,000 companies, and an employment growth rate three times that of the state’s overall economy. These economic benefits are due, in large part, to the state’s landmark clean energy and climate law, AB 32, which passed in 2006.

What’s more, Steinberg and Perez are carrying out the will of the people: last November, Californians overwhelming endorsed the State’s leadership in building a 21st century clean energy economy by resoundingly defeating Proposition 23.  Our fellow citizens and Legislative leaders understand that you can have a strong economy while preserving clean air and healthy communities.

In President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, he highlighted our opportunity to unleash a wave of innovation that creates new industries and millions of new jobs. “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” he said, highlighting his plans to send Congress a budget that allows us to invest in, among other things, “clean energy technology, an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

By introducing this initiative, California’s legislative leadership is stepping up to seize our generation’s Sputnik moment.

Also posted in Clean Energy, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32| Tagged | Comments closed

Not the U.S. or China, but the U.S., China and the Planet

January 21, 2011

This was originally posted by Gernot Wagner in California, International, Markets 101, Politics in EDF's Market Forces blog.

One of the pleasures of my job is having a slew of superbly qualified prospective interns knock on our doors. Yesterday, I interviewed someone who graduated at the top of his class at Renmin University in Beijing.

There have been plenty of column inches written on "China versus the US," including when it comes to green jobs and clean tech. So,

Who's going to come out ahead, China or the United States?

It took him nary a second to nail this one:

China, relatively. Both China and the U.S. in an absolute sense.

That's the textbook answer.

The atmosphere wins

China has a lot of catching up to do. Comparatively, it will clearly gain on the U.S. But trade also has advantages for both parties involved. That's why we trade in the first place.

The planet emerges as a winner as well. It doesn't care where a ton of carbon gets emitted or where it gets reduced—just that reductions happen.

If China produces cheaper solar panels, we get fewer emissions overall. The planet wins. China wins. What about the U.S.?

What about jobs?

If you are among the 800 workers in Devens, MA, who last week found out that Evergreen Solar was moving its plant to China, you will feel very differently about free trade right about now. The textbook economic answer would say that the move can still make everyone better off: compensate the losers through portions of the gains from the winners, and everybody wins once again.

This situation, of course, is the moment when you throw out your textbook and think about the full consequences.

As a result of the move, solar panels will likely become even cheaper for everyone, enabling many more to buy them. Still, the Devens 800 will not be among the people lining up to buy cheaper solar panels.

What can they do? What should the U.S. do as a matter of policy?

First, we need to realize that the rules of trade still apply. China has lots of cheap labor. It does and will continue to manufacture many products sold in the U.S. Solar panels are no different.

But that's still not a satisfying answer, nor is it the whole story—not for manufacturing itself, and not for the clean tech industry overall.

How to keep clean tech jobs in the U.S.

To get to the bottom of this, we need to look at the full supply chain for solar panels. This, of course, oversimplifies things, but we can split the entire process into three distinct buckets: inventing, producing, and installing.

Right now, the U.S. is inventing, China is producing, and it is the one installing the resulting solar panels domestically at massive scale.

The U.S. ought to do everything to make sure it keeps inventing clean tech products. That means a concerted push to fund basic research and development. But R&D subsidies alone won't do.

Many mentions of "R&D" add a second "D" for deployment. Government support can get things going, but large-scale deployment of clean technologies won't happen through subsidies alone (at least not without bankrupting the government).

So how do you get deployment up to scale?

Deployment clearly needs to be driven by demand. That's where a cap on carbon pollution, with its resulting price on carbon, comes in. A cap helps create a more level playing field for solar and other renewable energy sources relative to fossil energy and, therefore, creates the necessary demand. (There are alternatives, like simply requiring a certain percentage of power to come from solar, but none is quite as cheap and flexible as a cap.)

Made in USA?

Moreover, cheap labor and cheaper production facilities may be a decisive factor, but they are not the only reason companies consider when choosing where to locate. There are many more, but let's focus on two: intellectual property (IP) protection and being close to where the demand is.

The U.S. has a leg up on China in terms of IP protection. That's, in part, why the U.S. (still) leads on R&D. It's also a clear draw for some companies to locate their production facilities in the U.S.

Another oft-cited reason is to be close to consumers. That's once again where the importance of the second "D"—deployment—comes in. The more demand there is for solar panels in the U.S., the more companies will locate their production plants in the U.S. as well. The case of First Solar supplying panels for Wal-Mart is a prime example. (Note that this is distinct from cheaper production leading to more demand in the first place.)

In the end, though, we must also be clear that jobs will be different in the new, cleaner economy. We will need fewer gas station attendants. Many other jobs will thrive. Underlying trade forces will mean that China may well be producing many of the solar panels sold globally. Assembling, installing, and maintaining solar panels in the U.S. will require plenty of skilled labor. And none of these jobs can be exported.

California leading

With the right policies in place, the U.S. will keep inventing. It will also create thousands of jobs dedicated to deployment. China will play a major role in producing, but even there, smart environmental policy can only help.

California is taking the lead with its Million Solar Roofs initiative, creating many a job assembling, installing, and maintaining solar panels. That initiative, though, still has to be paid for by tax dollars, and it won't go on forever.

That's where the cap on carbon kicks in. California is bound to stay ahead of the rest of the U.S. with its ambitious cap-and-trade system that starts on January 1, 2012 and the resulting market signal that says that clean tech pays in the U.S. as well.

Consider the just-released Next 10 report, Many Shades of Green, that found that in the most recent observable 12-month period (January 2008 – January 2009) jobs in the green sector grew more than three times faster than total employment in California. (Of course, all of this always comes with the warning that green sector jobs are still a small fraction of total jobs—much like IT jobs were a minuscule part of overall employment in the early 1980s.)

One of our internship spot may well end up going to a Chinese student, but that, too, can only be good for the planet—making a small contribution to help train the next generation of Chinese environmental leaders. And rest assured, there are plenty more open job positions (including one for a post-doc working with our economic team, open to anyone with a Princeton affiliation).

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate| 1 Response, comments now closed

Brown Brings Life and Hope to Transit Funding

This piece was originally posted in EDF's Way2Go blog and was written by Kathryn Phillips.

The last two years have been grim ones around the country for transit agencies.  The economy’s slide has meant cuts in funding for drivers, managers and mechanics, and that’s generally meant cuts in service.

California’s transit agencies have been especially hard hit. As the state’s deficit grew bigger and bigger (it’s higher than $27 billion today), the legislature and then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger began digging into state funds designated for transit to fund other essential services. The battles that erupted and the maneuvers to protect transit that evolved as a result were complex enough that only a 19th-Century Russian novelist could do the tale justice.

This week California’s newly inaugurated governor, Jerry Brown, began restoring life to transit and California’s transit users. He unveiled his 2011-2012 budget proposal and it includes a boost in transit funding. As one transit official suggested, it will help stop the bleeding.

The word on the street has been that this governor gets it about transit. He gets that good transit is essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and health-threatening air pollution, to get people to work and school, to reduce traffic congestion and make daily travel more reliable.

There were many reasons to believe this might be true. Throughout his career—two other terms as governor, two terms as mayor of Oakland, a term as attorney general—Brown has demonstrated that he thinks Californians need to be creative and smart about how we deal with transportation demand. Still, until that first budget came out, there was only hope.

The governor’s budget proposal now has some hurdles to clear. It now goes to the legislature where there will be hearings and debate and more debate,  leadership meetings, and finally a series of legislative votes.

If it clears these hurdles, the proposal won’t totally solve the transit funding crisis in this state. However, it will help restore and maintain some service, and it settles the Capitol feuding over whether the state should even contribute to transit operations funding. With that settled, Californians can start the real conversation about how to pay for the level of transit Californians need.

Also posted in Transportation| Comments closed

New Energy in Sacramento: Jerry Brown Takes Office

Movers and shakers from throughout the State descended on Sacramento yesterday to see Jerry Brown become California’s 39th Governor.  You could feel the excitement in the long line that snaked around K Street into the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium for his inauguration. 

Our new Governor didn’t disappoint.  His 16-minute inaugural speech was energetic and frank.  He provided a brutally honest assessment of our broken political process and told an uplifting story about his wife’s ancestors, a courageous lineage of pioneers who settled in California. 

Brown speech—to no one’s surprise—centered on the budget.  He spoke passionately about the need to transcend Sacramento’s partisan political culture and stop using “delay and denial” when making tough budget choices. 

He laid out three principles for his budget proposal:

  1. Speak the truth on budget challenges
  2. No new taxes without the vote of the people
  3. Bring authority closer to the people (aka “realigning” core government responsibilities to local governments)

In a speech that didn’t delve into specifics, it’s notable that Brown singled out clean energy policy as a great economic opportunity for California.  Expanding investment in cleaner energy, he said, can help lead us out of the state’s 10th recession since World War II.

He mentioned one of the boldest pieces of his campaign’s energy platform: generating 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy— enough electricity to power 15 million homes.  Brown said that “sensible and bold decisions” were needed to reach this audacious goal and that we have to focus on the right “laws and rules” to meet it.

Brown’s priority on clean energy reflects a strong mandate voiced by voters, state leaders and private-sector investors: 

  • In soundly rejecting the Dirty Energy Proposition (Prop 23) two months ago, voters reaffirmed their support for California’s approach to securing a clean energy future, improving air quality, creating jobs and competing in the next industrial revolution, a global market that is estimated to be valued at $8 trillion.
  • Leaders in the Assembly and Senate have strong track  records as clean energy champions and are eager to advance energy solutions. 
  • The private sector sees the potential of clean energy: $10 billion in clean tech funding has flowed into California since AB 32 passed in 2006—almost half of all domestic clean energy investments.

Governor Brown’s leadership—combined with these factors—opens a great window of opportunity for California to break new ground in energy.  To paraphrase a 1980s one-hit-wonder, “the future’s so bright (for California clean energy), you gotta wear shades.”

This post originally appeared in the SF Chronicle's City Brights blog.

Also posted in Clean Energy| 1 Response, comments now closed