Debate Continues Over HSR Cap-and-Trade Funding
Political leaders in Sacramento are debating how exactly to allocate cap-and-trade revenues, and high speed rail is a part of that discussion – as Dan Walters explains:
Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2014-15 budget would spend $850 million, with his financially troubled bullet train receiving $250 million, plus a guaranteed one-third of future revenues.
[Legislative Analyst Mac] Taylor has opined that it may be illegal to spend fees on the bullet train because it would not meet the law’s emission reduction mandate. Environmentalists who like the cap-and-trade system are leery of that commitment as well, preferring direct spending on greenhouse gas reduction.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, meanwhile, has unveiled his own fee proposal that provides markedly less for the bullet train and emphasizes two of his personal priorities, low-income housing and commuter transit, although housing may have even less nexus to greenhouse gases than the bullet train.
There’s a lot of flawed things here. The worst is the idea that the Legislative Analyst is right about what is and is not an appropriate use of cap-and-trade revenues. The LAO is not in a position to provide an accurate answer to that question. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is the agency most familiar with the AB 32 rules, and they have included HSR in their plans for cap-and-trade revenues. The only other state agency with any authority to weigh in on this would be the Legislative Counsel or the Attorney General and to my knowledge they either have not done so or have concluded that this is indeed a legitimate use of funds.
Of course, this blog also thoroughly debunked the LAO’s claims back in January, and all I had to do was actually read AB 32. One also merely has to apply some common sense. AB 32 is all about long-term CO2 reduction, that was the entire point of it being written and adopted, and so of course it would allow cap-and-trade funds to be used on HSR.
Anyhow. Dan Walters’ argument that neither HSR nor housing have a nexus to CO2 reduction is clearly absurd. Transportation emissions make up a substantial portion of overall CO2 emissions in California. Electric trains reduce a lot of that CO2 emissions. So too does shortening the commute by building more housing near workplaces and transit nodes.
As we know, environmentalists who oppose funding long-term CO2 reduction are unserious about addressing global warming and consigning California’s coastline, including the delta, to rising waters. Hopefully either Governor Brown’s or Senator Steinberg’s proposal for using cap-and-trade funds for HSR prevails. The alternative is to throw California to the waves.