California Environmental Justice and Climate Solutions
California’s landmark AB32 cap-and-trade program is at a crossroads: many lawmakers and the State’s Governor believe a two thirds vote is needed to continue the program as a cornerstone effort towards meeting the very ambitious state target of limiting emissions to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. However, while the cap-and-trade program enjoys considerable support from the regulated community and many of the larger California NGOs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the least cost, environmental justice (EJ) organizations have been vocal in their concerns. EJ groups argue that the cap and- trade program has not produced GHG reductions in their communities nor made meaningful contributions towards mitigating conventional air and toxic emissions in those communities. Because of the substantial political power wielded by the EJ community in the state legislature, the challenge ahead is to design the best path to achieving the 40 percent reduction goal at a feasible cost and in a way that meets the goals of the EJ community and the other affected stakeholders.
Accordingly, the University of California Berkeley Center for Environmental Public Policy (CEPP), with support from the Center for Clean Air Policy, has formed a new dialogue and outreach process geared towards finding workable solutions that allow emissions trading to proceed while also addressing the core concerns of the EJ community. In addition to considering the state’s existing proposals as reflected in the California Air Resources Board’s scoping plan, the dialogue is also reviewing a broader range of policy options to meet the dual emission reduction goals, including: ways to improve the effectiveness of existing EJ programs supported through auction revenues or other funding programs; changes to existing air quality, transportation, housing and energy programs that reduce emissions; modifications to the GHG trading system and offsets programs; and alternative market-based policies.
- Greater Understanding of the EJ Problem: The CEPP-CCAP team built greater understanding within the group of the very real and disproportionate pollution exposures faced in many EJ communities, and how a strong desire to ameliorate these pollution exposures is at the core of the current advocacy to limit emissions trading. Current regulatory approaches address regional criteria pollutant attainment, but because monitors used to assess regional air quality are intentionally not placed near pollution sources, there can still be localized hotspots that experience pollution exposures that are much higher than the regional averages. Further, existing state hotspot regulations for air toxics target emissions from stationary sources, but they do not touch mobile sources, and they do not look specifically at the pollution levels experienced in communities, which may be proximate to multiple stationary and point sources. There are also issues with agency authority (e.g., state vs. air district) to address different types of sources contributing to community level risks, uncertainty about how air districts and local regulators can apply indirect source rule authority, and concerns about lawsuits that can arise from pursuing actions where they are not necessary to reach federal ambient air quality attainment even though more action may be needed to address particular hotspot locations.
- Specific Proposed Solutions to meet climate and EJ objectives: The CEPP-CCAP team has developed a trio of specific solutions that can address EJ concerns in a durable manner. By design, none of these solutions impact the operation of the existing cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases. The recommended solutions aim to:
- Enhance deployment of inexpensive fine particle sensors in a consistent manner to detect disproportionately burdened communities (hotspots);
- Establish a new air quality planning process to identify hotspots, target deployment of regulatory-quality monitors, and develop and implement regulations to reduce emissions in hotspot communities; and
- Provide new authority to air districts, including new indirect source rule authority. The proposed indirect source rule approach provides a clear pathway for limiting emissions at ports, warehouses and other sources that attract high levels of truck traffic in a way that emphasizes operational efficiency and can be seen as win-win.
- Identified Funds to Support Air Quality Improvements in West Oakland. The dialogue process connected the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project—community advocates for air quality improvements near the Port of Oakland—to an ongoing PUC proceeding and PG&E proposal for significant spending on electrification. The initial plan had no funds for electrification at the Port of Oakland. There is now an effort underway to engage the West Oakland community towards changing PG&E’s spending priorities to include the port.