The system cap-and-trade, in effect in California to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change, is based on a perverse logic. It allows industry, with its large plants, to contaminate the environment in exchange for money to be used for the entire state. In other words, the response to the dirty airand environmental hazards suffered by communities of color neighboring, for example, a refinery, is a train fromLos Angeles to San Francisco or a bicycle rental program at the opposite end of California.
Law SB 535, sponsored by Senator Kevin de León, introduced a bit of common sense by requiring that at least 25% of the nearly $3 billion collected this year be invested in programs that benefit “disadvantaged communities,” and at least 10% in specific geographical areas. In this case, the “disadvantaged” communitiesinclude those impacted by the pollution and those that are poorest.
The strategy underlying SB 535 is too use funds as a general investment in the neediest communities, building affordable housingand trying to get the funds to spark a general improvement in the neighborhood through job creation. This is a comprehensive vision, which, due to the various interpretations of the word “benefit” in the law, actually does not necessarily benefit the neighbor of the refinery or the poorest community because the geography between the pollution, the poor, and those benefitted can be very large.
It is true that environmental contamination knows no boundaries. But it is also a question of ecological justice to at leasthave the resources devoted to disadvantaged communities and those impacted by pollution invested in their area, especially in the latter case.
The legislative session ended recently with nearly $1 billion in funds unused. There is a struggle among lawmakers who want the money for their own environmental projects. In January, the remaining funds will be distributed, and we hope the necessary corrections are made to compensate with justice the Californians whose suffering caused by living near polluting facilities allows the whole state to breather cleaner air.