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Climate Bill Offers Hope Of Relief For Minorities

 New America Media, News Report, Ngoc Nguyen

LOS ANGELES -Los Angeles baked in record-shattering heat this week, leading to power outages across the city and one death. As residents try to escape the staggering temperatures, most are unaware that a bill currently on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk could give Californians, especially those in low-income communities, greater respite from heat waves like this one.

AB 1405, co-authored by Assemblymen Kevin De Leon and V. Manuel Perez, both Democrats from Southern California, would direct a portion of the revenues that could be generated under AB 32, the state’s pioneering greenhouse-gas law, to help vulnerable communities adapt and respond to climate change.

To deal with heat waves, for instance, the bill could boost investment in cooling centers or public transportation. These resources could make a huge difference in low-income communities. African Americans in Los Angeles are twice as likely as white residents to die from heat waves, because they lack air conditioning and cars, according to a recent 
study. Without easy access to public transportation to get to cooler places, many are stuck in their overheated homes. 

The bill could gain more prominence as Schwarzenegger tries to fend off a November ballot initiative and campaign to roll back the state’s law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Prop. 23 calls for the suspension of AB 32 until California’s jobless rate—now around 12.4 percent—drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. 

The latest Field Poll found that a majority of voters continue to oppose Prop. 23, but ethnic voters, who could play a decisive role in determining the measure's fate, are on the fence. Public health and environmental justice groups say by signing AB 1405, the governor could help to highlight and clarify the benefits of the state’s climate law and counter the Prop. 23 campaign.

“By supporting this bill, the governor could make very clear that revenues generated by AB 32 will be invested in ways that advance the public health needs and economic interest of some of the most vulnerable communities in the state,” said Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management and School of Public Health. 

AB 32 has the potential to generate revenues because of a cap-and-trade program that lies at its core. Under the program, greenhouse gas emissions would be capped and allowances offered. Companies that cannot reduce their emissions can buy allowances from businesses able to make such cuts. Implementation of the law could generate an estimated $2 billion to $22 billion annually, depending on what the state charges polluters, according to Nidia Bautista, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air, which co-sponsored the legislation.

AB 1405 would direct 10 percent of revenues generated under AB 32 into a fund to help vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change and create green jobs. 

“The governor’s office believes it will complicate the campaign to defeat Prop. 23,” said Dan Reeves, De Leon's chief of staff. “Mr. De Leon believes it will do the exact opposite. It assures people who live in neglected and polluted communities that AB 32 won’t victimize them and instead will provide cleaner air and create jobs in the community.”

Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for the governor, says the governor has not taken a position on the bill.

The bill was sponsored by the California NAACP and public health and environmental justice organizations, and is opposed by a 
long list of industry groups.

In a statement, one opponent, the California Chamber of Commerce, said: “AB 1405 takes an arbitrary 10 percent of an unknown amount of revenue to be raised by CARB in a cap-and-trade program for purposes that are not in the AB 32 scoping plan and that do not meet the criteria of AB 32.”

“There is very serious industry opposition to 1405,” said Bonnie Holmes-Gen, policy direction of the American Lung Association of California, which supports the legislation. “The state Chamber of Commerce said it’s a jobs killer. That’s flatly wrong…the American Lung Association believes the governor will see through that argument.”


STORY TAGS: BLACK , AFRICAN AMERICAN , MINORITY , CIVIL RIGHTS , DISCRIMINATION , RACISM , NAACP , URBAN LEAGUE , RACIAL EQUALITY , BIAS , EQUALITY, HISPANIC , LATINO , MEXICAN , MINORITY , CIVIL RIGHTS , DISCRIMINATION , RACISM , DIVERSITY , LATINA , RACIAL EQUALITY , BIAS , EQUALITY



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