Environmental Equity

SB 535 directs money from the cap-and-trade program to communities most in need of economic investment, good jobs, and clean air. Getting the bill passed and signed into law was only the first step, and some of the most critical work continues today.


After SB 535 became law, Greenlining worked with the SB 535 Coalition to identify priority investment opportunities in communities burdened by pollution and poverty, and we participated in the Air Resources Board’s public process to develop the first triennial cap-and-trade investment plan for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF).

This effort was successful: The ultimate Investment Plan ARB submitted to the legislature included many of the priorities identified by community leaders, such as low-income weatherization and energy efficiency, low-income solar power, sustainable freight and other low-carbon transportation, urban forestry, affordable transit-oriented housing development, and support for transit operating assistance and transit passes for core riders.


Actual money to back up SB 535’s priorities depends on the governor and legislature allocating the funds during the annual budget process. After a setback in 2013-14, when the governor borrowed $500 million from the GGRF, the 2014-2015 budget funded $272 million for projects that align with the SB535 Coalition’s priorities, including funding for low-income weatherization and solar programs, affordable housing near transit, and urban forestry. These programs are likely to receive a minimum of $559 million in the 2015-2016 budget.

We will continue to work with the legislature and governor this year and in future years to ensure that cap-and-trade funds go to these urgently needed priorities. This involves not just budget appropriations, but assuring that the money is actually spent as intended and the promised benefits really reach disadvantaged communities. We need a transparent accountability mechanism that demonstrates compliance with SB 535 — both at the front end, as investments are selected, and at the back end, as part of the report the Department of Finance must provide the legislature describing “how the administering agencies have fulfilled the requirements” of SB 535.


California invested a historic amount of funds in its 2014-15 budget in greenhouse gas reducing projects that maximize environmental, economic and public health benefits for state’s most disadvantaged communities. The state provided funding for 26 affordable housing buildings near transit, totaling over 2,000 units of affordable housing, as well as $75 million for the installation of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in single family homes. As investments continue to roll out, the state is funding urban forestry projects, electric vehicle car sharing pilots, and transit operations program. Visit UpliftCA.org for stories about how California is solving climate change and poverty at the same time.

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