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California Governor Approves $900 Million For Environment

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks before signing a bill to combat climate change at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015.
Associated Press
California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks before signing a bill to combat climate change at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday approved $900 million in funding for environmental programs, signing legislation that frees up an unusually large influx of cash for wide-ranging initiatives aimed at cleaning up California's notoriously dirty air.

The move by the Democratic governor includes funding for clean-vehicle subsidies, urban parks and trees, home weatherization and transit programs from California's fee charged to polluters.

Brown negotiated the spending plan with top Democratic legislative leaders Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Paramount and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles. It was approved on the last day of the legislative session, Aug. 31.


The money represents two-thirds of the available funding from California's carbon-emission fee, known as cap-and-trade.

Brown approved the funding in a ceremony in Fresno, a week after he signed an extension of the law that sets California's emissions reductions goals and outlines other efforts to reduce climate change.

The fight over climate legislation has been marked by a sharp divide between wealthy coastal areas, where carbon-reducing programs are popular, and poorer inland areas where those policies threaten refinery jobs and compete for government funding. Brown went to the Central Valley to make the case that climate programs benefit everyone.

"You put this poison into the air, and you can actually take it out," Brown said. "That's what this bill is all about: Cleaning things up ... reducing the greenhouse gases. All of that is good for people, rich and poor alike."

Republicans have in the past said it's irresponsible to spend money generated from a fee being challenged in court. A state appellate court is considering a challenge by the California Chamber of Commerce, which argues the fee is a tax that needed support from two-thirds of the Assembly and Senate in order to be valid.


The funding package includes $363 million in clean vehicle incentives, $95 million to plant more carbon-capturing plants in urban areas, and $135 million for transit and intercity rail construction. A grant program for local governments and neighborhoods to promote energy efficiency programs will get $140 million.

Dairy farmers will get $50 million to reduce methane emissions from cow manure, and $40 million will go to promoting composting — an attempt to reduce methane emissions from organic material decomposing in landfills.

Brown and the lawmakers agreed to spend about two-thirds of the money available from the fee on carbon polluters, ending two years of indecision over what to do with the money. About 60 percent of program revenues are earmarked for specific projects including high-speed rail. The spending approved Wednesday covers the remaining 40 percent and also leaves $462 million for future years.

The governor also signed legislation requiring that at least 10 percent of cap-and-trade proceeds benefit low-income households.

And he approved a bill attempting to put tens of millions of dead trees to use by requiring a portion of the state's energy be generated by burning them. The idea was opposed by some environmentalists who said it's a giveaway to a handful of biomass plants primarily in Northern California.