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Why Fighting for Clean Water with Climate Change Money Worries Some California Lawmakers

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Combat climate change, or clean up California’s water? Those alarmed by the Legislature’s decision to dip into a greenhouse gas fund to pay for clean drinking water may need to get used to it: constitutional restrictions on spending that money are set to expire in 2021.

At issue is the decision to address one environmental crisis—the lack of clean water for one million Californians—with money set aside for fighting another: climate change. It’s a move that pits those committed to curbing greenhouse gases against environmental allies over $1.4 billion dollars of polluters’ money, even as the state boasts a $20.6 billion surplus.

Environmentalists who worked for years to find money for clean water are celebrating the decision as a victory despite the message for climate change goals. Sen. Bill Monning, a Carmel Democrat who has pushed for safe drinking water funding in the past, called it the right thing to do on the Senate floor on Thursday.
“We will make history today by making good on that promise of addressing the human right of every Californian for access to clean, safe drinking water,” he said.

Sen.  Bob Wieckowski, a Democrat from Fremont, didn’t dispute the need for clean water funding. But he voiced concerns over its source: income from cap and trade, a program that requires major greenhouse gas producers to reduce their emissions or buy credits to compensate. The money from selling those credits goes into a piggy bank called the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which is supposed to pay for efforts to do exactly that: reduce greenhouse gases.

Those efforts have included high-speed rail, reducing emissions from transportation, clean air programs, and promoting housing density—efforts that, at least arguably, could be related to greenhouse gas pollution. The fund also has been used for tasks less clearly connected, like a $500 million dollar loan to the general fund and paying for a tax break for manufacturers.

This article was published by CALmatters. Click here to read the entire article.


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