Who gets what when, in the popular formulation, works as shorthand for a lot of of political debates. It’s proving to be a critical dynamic as California debates the future of its centerpiece climate change program.
Earlier this year, not long after declaring victory on a hard-fought measure expanding the state’s emission reduction mandate, Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers announced a late-session deal on where to send some of the revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program. That program’s shriveling funding stream flows from selling greenhouse gas emission permits to polluters.
A big chunk of money in the compromise went to the Air Resource Board’s Low-Carbon Transportation initiative, including over $200 million to bolster programs offering financial incentives for purchasing cleaner vehicles. Today the ARB will discuss spending the $363 million windfall during a 9 a.m. meeting in Fresno, which has some of the worst air quality in the country. That may help explain why Brown signed the funding deal there and declared policies pursuing clean air to benefit “rich and poor alike,” an apparent nod at legislative efforts to better spread the benefits of cap-and-trade around the economic and geographic map.
Even with big bucks going out the door, the program’s future remains uncertain. Brown has argued business interests and resistant legislators will prefer the reliability of cap-and-trade to more stringent dictates. Whether or not the Legislature musters a vote to extend the program beyond a 2020 limit set in statute, the ARB has already begun sculpting regulations that could sustain the system without a vote. On Friday, the ARB will meet in Sacramento for a public hearing that includes an agenda item on the post-2020 landscape for businesses and utilities.