The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) today announced that it has prioritized disadvantaged communities across the state for projects funded by California’s cap-and-trade program. As a result, more than $200 million of $832 million in cap-and-trade proceeds from the 2014-2015 budget will be earmarked for low-income areas, including those in Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley.
Projects utilizing those funds include energy efficiency, public transit, affordable housing, and other greenhouse gas-cutting programs. A 2012 State law (Senate Bill 535 – De León) requires that at least 25 percent of these cap-and-trade funds be invested for the benefit of the State’s most disadvantaged communities. At least 10 percent of those funds must be for projects located within the communities themselves.
CalEPA used census data, public input from workshops and briefings, and the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen) to designate the funding areas and ensure that California’s most environmentally impacted communities will be eligible for funding. CalEnviroScreen is a science-based tool that identifies California communities that face the greatest burdens from and vulnerability to multiple sources of pollution. Additionally, CalEPA’s actions ensure that State agencies concentrate funding for greenhouse gas emission reductions in those communities.
The percentage of funds designated will probably be higher, according to the Brown Administration, which views SB535 requirements as a minimum. Indeed, the Air Resources Board (ARB), which administers the cap-and-trade program, believes that at least one third of the budget appropriation ($272 million) will be spent on such projects.
“This is a unique opportunity to improve public health and quality of life for people living in communities that suffer disproportionately from environmental contamination,” said CalEPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez. “Our goal is to ensure that these communities receive a direct benefit from California’s programs to cut climate pollution.”
“California is demonstrating we can combat climate change, create jobs, provide clean air, clean energy, and help revitalize our most polluted neighborhoods,” said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, who authored SB 535. “As a state, we are making tangible investments to strengthen and protect our most polluted and underserved neighborhoods.”
“CalEnviroScreen is a critical tool to help the state identify communities that face the highest pollution and socioeconomic burdens, which is absolutely necessary if we are to transform these areas into healthy neighborhoods,” said Amy Vanderwarker, coordinator of the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “Using it will help ensure that some of California’s most vulnerable communities receive much-needed resources to support climate solutions and pollution reduction programs.”