Newsom proposes $4.1B for climate programs

Source: By Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, January 11, 2021

California’s governor proposed spending $4.1 billion on climate programs in his next budget, including electric vehicle charging stations and efforts to prevent catastrophic wildfires.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced the plan as part of his $227 billion blueprint for fiscal 2021-22. It marked a down payment toward his goal of phasing out gas-fueled cars as he seeks to make California a global beacon for zero-emissions vehicles.

“We’re going to accelerate our efforts” on clean cars, Newsom said in a press conference Friday. “You want to be big, you’ve got to be big in big things. Nothing bigger than low-carbon, green growth. Nothing more impactful, nothing more meaningful from an economic paradigm, an inclusion paradigm, than changing the way we produce and consume energy.”

The climate budget would dedicate $1 billion for new EV charging and hydrogen refueling stations. It would come via loans the state hopes to get based on future vehicle registration fees. Newsom also wants to boost sales of zero-emission vehicles by using $465 million in revenues raised by the state’s carbon cap-and-trade program.

Funding would be used to provide incentives to buyers of passenger cars, trucks and off-road equipment. Part of the money would help low-income residents through the state’s “Clean Cars 4 All” program. It helps drivers get rid of older, high-polluting cars and replace them with zero- or near-zero-emission options.

“It’s not just about fancy, expensive cars and the rest of us are left behind,” Newsom said.

He did not say how the $465 million in car funding would be distributed. The state currently uses cap-and-trade revenue to offer rebates to people who buy clean cars. That program is in high demand and in some years has run out of money.

Vehicle experts have said that if California hopes to meet its goal of banning sales of new gas-powered cars, it needs 10 million people to buy zero-emissions vehicles and has to install thousands of charging stations within a decade (Climatewire, Oct. 1, 2020). Newsom last year was the first governor in the nation to issue an executive order saying no new gas cars could be sold after 2035.

The California Air Resources Board “does not expect the uptake of ZEVs to be a steady linear increase: it is projected to grow over time, ramping up in the latter years,” California EPA spokeswoman Erin Curtis said in an email.

“This proposed budget establishes the foundation for the wholesale electrification of the fleet with an emphasis on equity built into this transition, and a focus in the near term on getting the funding where it is needed most,” Curtis added.

California wants to have 250,000 EV charging ports and 200 hydrogen fueling stations by 2025.

Newsom also proposed delaying for a decade the collection of taxes tied to electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling stations completed by Jan. 1, 2024. He said the estimated $100 million in tax exclusion would promote investments in alternative energy and transportation.

Transportation is the state’s biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 40%.

“The state is not on track to meet our 2030 standard for reducing climate-changing pollution, largely because transportation emissions have stayed stubbornly high,” Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air, said in a statement on the spending plan.

The state wants to cut its climate pollution 40% by 2030 and to reach carbon neutrality by 2045.

Fire prevention money

The budget proposes $1 billion for fire programs. Catastrophic wildfires scorched more than 4 million acres last year, double the previous record.

Those climate impacts arrived decades earlier than expected. A state analysis had projected that the amount of area burned by wildfire could jump 77% by the end of the century. That occurred last year (Climatewire, Oct. 20, 2020).

Golden State residents also sweltered in record-breaking heat in August through October, noted Kate Gordon, Newsom’s senior policy adviser on climate (Energywire, Sept. 8, 2020).

“Californians experienced accelerating climate impacts in every area of the state,” Gordon said Friday during a call with reporters. “Climate-related disasters are occurring at a speed and scale not expected until the end of the century.”

The $1 billion proposed for wildfires includes $143 million for additional firefighting crews, $48 million for helicopters and other air equipment, and $39 million for lidar technology to map fire-prone areas.

Newsom also assigned money to cut emissions linked to agricultural practices. There’s $250 million to replace older harvesting equipment, agricultural pump engines, tractors and other tools with less polluting models.

The funds also would go for soil management practices that sequester carbon and for “climate smart loans” to spur projects like targeting methane reduction, water efficiency, on-farm bioenergy, energy efficiency for food processing, and renewable energy systems and energy storage for agricultural operation.

The climate package includes money to promote “natural and working lands.” Newsom in an executive order last year said he wanted to preserve 30% of state lands for use as carbon sinks and to collect atmospheric carbon (Climatewire, Oct. 8, 2020).

To that end, his budget includes $125 million for water quality, water supply, and watershed protection and restoration projects with money coming from bonds approved in a 2018 ballot measure. There’s also nearly $80 million from other bond funds, partially dedicated to a few specific ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects.