SIMEON GANT: Greening Low Income Communities

sac-button-Simeon2014OPINION – California’s landmark Greenhouse Gas reduction initiative is considered the largest pot of money slated for minority communities in the state’s history. This year’s budget included $872 million from the cap-and-trade proceeds and earmarked 25 percent of that to benefit disadvantaged communities.

For the past few years the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) identified regions of the state disproportionally burdened by multiple sources of pollution. Many of these regions are considered disadvantaged and comprise of ethnically diverse people with persistently low income. The other commonality is toxic chemicals in the land and air due to high carbon emitting power plants, brownfields and unmitigated pollution.

The Cap and Trade program sets a limit on businesses emitting carbon into the atmosphere and requires polluters to pay for their share by buying carbon allowances. The goal is to reduce Greenhouse Gases by 30 percent by the year 2020 and by 80 percent by the year 2050.

The screening process to identify which communities are eligible to receive this funding is titled Enviroscreen. It is the defining tool California state agencies will utilize to determine which regions of the state will get the money. Now community advocates are reaching out to the myriad of state agencies responsible for drafting guidelines and reviewing proposals from community organizations and businesses to receive this funding.

Lawmakers identified specific industry areas the resources will land, including, housing, transportation and renewable energy sources.

The State Office of Community Services Development (CSD), the California Air Resources Board (ARB), the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA) and many other agencies will review projects to weatherize homes, develop electric vehicle programs in low-income communities, transit-oriented housing developments and innovative renewable energy projects to spend this quarter of $872 million.

Many organizations are scrambling to develop clean energy, energy efficiency and sustainable living strategies to obtain this funding. Public workshops will occur from August to September 2014 throughout the state. Guidelines, applications and reporting documents are expected to roll out from October 2014 to May 2015.

The allocation of this funding is a sign that Governor Brown is determined to leave a legacy bent on “greening” the environment. It is now in the hands of his bureaucracy to spend the money wisely, affectively and as intended.

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    SIMEON GANT: Greening Low Income Communities