Governor, lawmakers reach deal for California climate funds

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2016 file photo, California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the Association of California Water Agencies conference in Sacramento, Calif. After scoring victories last year on his signature priority of climate change, Brown will lay out his next agenda for California as he delivers his state of the state address Thursday, Jan 21.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown and California’s top legislative leaders said Wednesday they have reached an agreement to spend $900 million on environment-related programs, nearly two-thirds of the available money generated by the state’s cap on carbon pollution.

Their deal, reached in the final hours of the two-year legislative session, includes $363 million for clean vehicle incentives and hundreds of millions for urban plants and efforts to create cleaner air in disadvantaged communities. It also includes $50 million to reduce emissions of methane and other climate-changing gases associated with landfills and dairy production.

The agreement is the product of negotiations between Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Paramount. All three are Democrats.

“This plan gets us the most bang for the buck,” Brown said in a statement. “It directs hundreds of millions where it’s needed most – to help disadvantaged communities, curb dangerous super pollutants and cut petroleum use – while saving some for the future.”

If the Assembly and Senate sign off, the deal would end two years of indecision over what to do with $1.4 billion in revenues from California’s fee on polluters, known as cap-and-trade. About 60 percent of program revenues are earmarked for specific projects including high-speed rail. The spending announced Wednesday covers the remaining 40 percent and also leaves $462 million for future years.

The spending plan is a compromise between De Leon, who two weeks ago proposed spending nearly all the available funds, and Rendon and Brown, who advocated a more frugal approach, particularly given plummeting revenue and uncertainty about the program’s long-term viability.

It still requires approval from the Democratically-controlled state Legislature, which is scheduled to finish its two-year session by midnight on Wednesday.

Pollution permits consistently sold out after the cap-and-trade program began in 2012, regularly generating billions of dollars to combat climate change. But demand this year has plummeted amid a legal challenge that threatens to end the program.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering legislation that would require steep reductions in a variety of climate-changing gases known as short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, HFC gases used in aerosols and air-conditioning refrigerants and human-caused black carbon. It would require dairies and livestock producers to reduce methane emissions from cow flatulence and manure. And it would seek to significantly reduce organic waste, which emits greenhouse gases when it breaks down in landfills.

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