Opinion

From ARB Enviro Justice adviser: Extend cap-and-trade

A natural gas plant in Oxnard. (Photo: Henrik Lehnerer)

The state Legislature is currently considering a two-part proposal to extend the California greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program and target local air pollution reductions across California.

As a member of the California Air Resources Board’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC), a resident of the Inland Empire, and a strong advocate for the pollution reductions that our families need and deserve, I support Eduardo Garcia and his leadership in helping pass AB 398 and AB 617.

The program creates an enforceable limit on climate pollution and establishes a dollar value that provides an incentive to businesses to make long-term investments.

Throughout my many years living, working and breathing in the air of San Bernardino County, I have experienced first-hand the impact of pollution on people’s lives.  I have also witnessed what prolonged lack of access to a sufficient number of good jobs has on families.  Finally, I have seen what a lack of solutions to fix these problems creates, and the hopelessness that can result.

California’s cap-and-trade program, and the opportunities it creates for improvements in the environment and the economy is a part of the solution to this problem and should be extended.

In my professional career, I have been proud to base my work and make decisions grounded in sound science.  As an employee at NASA, I developed science materials on behalf of the agency for both the press and public that required precise and accurate evaluations of data from complex systems.  While the California cap-and-trade program isn’t as complex as a mission to Mars, it is no less important.

In 2016, my organization commissioned a research study to better understand the value of the California cap-and-trade program so that we could see the opportunity it provides. The program creates an enforceable limit on climate pollution and establishes a dollar value that provides an incentive to businesses to make long-term investments in cleaner fuels and energy-efficiency. The program is driving the action that California needs to make reductions in climate pollutants.

In addition to cutting climate pollution, the cap-and-trade program complements existing efforts in California to reduce other pollutants. This helps communities like ours and creates additional resources that benefit local communities. For example, 50 percent of the money generated from cap and trade has been invested in communities that have historically been neglected and forgotten.  Just as important as the climate benefits, cap and trade can increase job creation and training, which we can all agree our region needs.  With this in mind, and the proposed legislation that helps improve air quality, it is clear that extending the cap-and-trade program along with strong air quality provisions makes sense.

This package is a significant step forward.

As someone trained to build upon progress, that is exactly what AB 398 and AB 617 do. I admire the leadership, courage, and passion of Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. He has taken up the challenge of addressing climate change and improving air quality for residents of the Inland Empire. We should all feel very proud that we have an elected official who cares so much about the air we breathe that is willing to lead on extending our climate progress. I’m with you Assemblymember Garcia, and so are others who value protecting the health of families. AB 398 and AB 617 will improve the quality of life for those us living in the Inland Empire. Thank you for fighting for us!

Ed’s Note: Eleanor Torres is a member of the California Air Resources Board’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC) and currently works at the Incredible Edible Community Garden, a not- for-profit organization.


  • JDietrick

    I don’t understand how to reconcile the phenomenon of ‘hot air’ as described by Danny Cullenward here: https://www.ghgpolicy.org/blog/2017/6/27/hot-air-and-offsets-in-californias-post-2020-carbon-market. It is hard for me to accept that the refiners are bringing in so much tar sands oil for refining for export and won’t pay or stop polluting until the AB617 monitoring data actually proves what is making people sick. What I’ve read is that because of this and other reasons the revenues will be less than if the allowances were phased out & offsets completely stopped. I loved the discussion at the last EJAC meeting that the investments from offsets should be decided by the polluted communities. It looks to me like we have a slower growing GHRF siphoned off by the tax credit bargains and a lot of years before ARB has the data, establishes the programs and clearinghouse and actually makes heavy emitters stop polluting..

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