The funds must be returned

The program to purchase pollution credits, known as “cap and trade,” generated hundreds of millions of dollars in 2013 that need to be allocated in 2014 to programs related to the environment.

That was the initial idea behind AB32, a bill approved in 2006 to fight global warming caused by greenhouse gases. Under this internationally innovative law, the government sets limits on the amount of pollution that the private sector can emit. If a company is unwilling or unable to meet those limits, it can purchase rights or credits to increase its pollution caps.

This year, reports show that $1.1 billion were generated in these transactions; $603 million stayed in the companies thanks to a controversial provision to help them during the transition period, and $478 million were paid to state government.

In June, Governor Brown decided that those funds would be used to reduce the budget deficit. Now that the Legislative Analyst has estimated there will be a $5.6 billion surplus in the 2015 budget, it is time to begin returning the funds so that they are used for the planned purposes.

The money is supposed to be invested in specific projects that lower emissions, for example, public transportation.

We think it is even more important to invest in public health, addressing the growing cases of asthma and respiratory problems in communities near polluting facilities that today are still affecting the air, even if now they are paying to do so.

We expect that on January 10, when Governor Brown announces his plans for 2014, he decides to return the funds so that they are used to counter the impact of carbon emissions on the poorest communities located near industrial plants.