Governor Jerry Brown: Fund HSR Through Cap-and-Trade Fees
Well this is some of the clever, innovative thinking that we expect from Governor Jerry Brown: on ABC7 in Los Angeles this morning, Gov. Brown proposed funding high speed rail through cap-and-trade fees. See the video below (HSR section begins at 3:00):
“Phase 1, I’m trying to redesign it in a way that in and of itself will be justified by the state investment,” Brown said. “We do have other sources of money: For example, cap-and-trade, which is this measure where you make people who produce greenhouse gasses pay certain fees – that will be a source of funding going forward for the high speed rail.”
Cap-and-trade is the name given to the system established by AB 32, passed in 2006 and supported by voters in 2010, to address carbon emissions and global warming. AB 32’s cap-and-trade fees go into effect later this year and that makes money available to help reduce carbon emissions. We know high speed rail will reduce carbon emissions – after all, transportation accounts for 39% of California’s carbon emissions, the largest of any kind of source. So on that basis alone it makes sense to use some cap-and-trade funds to help build high speed rail.
It could also help get tracks from the Central Valley to the coastal metropolis – the essential step to getting to an Initial Operating Segment and bringing private capital on board to help finish the entire route from SF to LA. Brown hinted at this possibility in the ABC7 interview, talking about using money to bring Metrolink up to Palmdale to help connect to a segment between Bakersfield and Palmdale. This may be what Dan Richard had in mind when he said last week that the urban areas would be included in the upcoming business plan revision.
This is the kind of thinking I’d like to see more of from the state legislature. Senators like Mark DeSaulnier, Joe Simitian and Alan Lowenthal ought to be figuring out how to make options like this work, rather than joining right-wingers to try and kill the high speed rail project. California should be a state where problems are solved, rather than used as excuses for giving up.
Brown also challenged claims that the project would cost $100 billion:
“It’s not going to be $100 billion,” the Democratic governor said on ABC 7’s Eyewitness Newsmakers program. “That’s way off….It’s going to be a lot cheaper than people are saying.”
I hope he’s right, even though I’m not as worked up about costs as others are.
Ultimately this interview shows how Governor Brown is key to the survival of California high speed rail, and how his refusal to embrace what he calls “defeatism” (as, sadly, Senators DeSaulnier, Simitian and Lowenthal appear to have done) about the state’s future is making a difference to the project at a time where it needs a strong champion.