Climate Roundup: Enviro Justice Groups Seek to Protect Low Income Weatherization

3 Apr 2018

Updated April 5

The governor’s spending proposal to eliminate the Low Income Weatherization Program’s budget is opposed by a coalition of environmental justice advocates.

The program, administered by the Department of Community Services & Development, has provided energy efficiency and solar installations, and utility bill savings in struggling communities.

It is funded by the California Air Resources Board’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

Investments in the low income weatherization program help clean the environment and encourage “economic growth within the most vulnerable communities,” according to Carmelita Miller, Greenlining Institute counsel.

Greenlining is part of the California Climate Equity Coalition that is working to keep the weatherization budget from being zeroed out. They are pushing to have the upcoming state budget provide $75 million for the low income program.

The program budget was slashed this year to $18 million, from $79 million in 2016-17. The year before, the low income weatherization budget was $75 million.

“We want to see [the Low Income Weatherization Program] achieve its full potential to transform vulnerable neighborhoods into resilient and empowered communities by improving public health and reducing the wealth gap,” Miller said.

She noted how a portion of the money has been directed at helping provide safer and healthier housing for the nearly 800,000 vulnerable farm workers.

California’s greenhouse gas reduction fund is projected by the Legislative Analyst Office to reach $2.4 billion in the next budget cycle. Of that amount, 35 percent is required to be directed to low income assistance.

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California Public Utilities Commission regulators are eyeing how to get ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber to use electric vehicles to provide transportation services.

Shifting ridesharing companies from gasoline-powered cars to electric cars presents an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases and help meet the state’s goal of having 5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, according to the CPUC report released April 3.

Electrifying ridesharing companies could cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report.

The study shows that ridesharing companies, also known as transportation network companies, now account for 2 percent of the more than 17 billion miles traveled by vehicles on the state’s roadways each month. CPUC analysts found too that ridesharing services now represent the fastest growth segment of the state’s commercial transportation industry.

CPUC analysts reasoned that as long as a fast charging network is available electric cars could help ridesharing companies cut costs since they typically have lower maintenance and operational costs than gasoline-powered models.

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The California Air Resources Board prohibited the use of specified hydrofluorocarbons, which are potent, short-lived climate pollutants.

“The Board’s action today preserves the federal limits on the use of these powerful chemicals and refrigerants, and provides more certainty to industry,” Mary Nichols, board chair, said after the March 23 vote.

The ban is estimated to cut 3.4 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually by 2030.

Curbing the use of these chemicals, which are 1,000-3,000 time more potent than carbon dioxide emissions as warming agents, are necessary to help California ultimately meet its climate protection goals, according to the Air Board.

The newly adopted HFC ban applies to the use of these climate changing chemicals used in new manufactured refrigerant units and foam used in buildings.

The board’s action was in response to a decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last year that limited U.S. EPA’s authority in this area.

The Air Board authority also is based on the U.S. EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy.

Furthermore, California law requires that the state cut the use of these climate changing chemicals and other short lived climate gases, including black carbon, 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.

The new regulations make manufacturers responsible for disclosure statements certifying the products they use are compliant refrigerants or foam expansion agents.

—Elizabeth McCarthy & William J. Kelly

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