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Standing up for Cleaner Air in Our Communities

By Adrian Rehn

For over 30 years, the Cleaner Air Partnership has brought environmental advocates, business leaders, and decision-makers together to fight for cleaner air and job growth across the Sacramento region. Investing in clean air improves public health, grows and attracts businesses, and is simply the right thing to do.

The work of ‘CAP’ has been an immense boon to our communities for a long time. But the time has come to do more.

The Sacramento region has 5-7% of California’s population. It also has 5-7% of the state’s population who live in disadvantaged communities, as designated by the state’s CalEnviroScreen 3.0 mapping tool. But in key programs like the statewide Cap & Trade system, which reinvests money charged to polluters into a variety of state agencies and projects, our region is not getting its fair share. As a whole, our region only receives 1-2% of air quality-related Cap & Trade funds, while Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley, and the Bay Area in particular receive many times more funding to do this work. This is about more than money – it’s about the ability of our low-income neighbors to live healthy and full lives. It’s about making our communities more livable for everyone. It’s about our region’s future.

The Cleaner Air Partnership coalition, led by Breathe California Sacramento Region, the Sacramento Metro Chamber, and Valley Vision, is a catalyst for the vision of the future that I just described.

As an example, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District has identified over $365 Million worth of shovel-ready projects in Sacramento County alone, much of which could be funded if our region were to receive proportionate Cap & Trade funding. Potential projects include electric bus conversionselectric vehicle charging infrastructurecleaner locomotiveslow-emission agricultural equipment, and more. The region’s other four Air Quality Management Districts (AQMDs) have similarly identified numerous shovel-ready projects in need of funding.

Through the leadership of Sacramento County Supervisor and CA Air Resources Board representative Phil Serna, CAP has been meeting with our region’s state-level elected officials and advisors, further building its coalition to include leaders skilled at navigating state legislation, the budget process, and the inner workings of California government. Our recent trips to the State Capitol to educate and inform leaders about how the state allocates Cap & Trade money have proven quite fruitful, as our region’s leaders at all levels are ready to do what it takes to modify the system. Addressing the Cap & Trade conundrum is a tangible first step in this new area of activity for CAP; as we become more connected and knowledgeable, we could engage with state representatives and agencies in all sorts of ways to the benefit of our communities.

Consider this a call to action. Over the next four weeks, the Cleaner Air Partnership will host three working sessions to build out a ‘Cap & Trade Playbook’ – a comprehensive plan to secure a balanced share of Cap & Trade funds for important air quality-related projects in the Capital region. We will be having additional meetings, beginning in May, with our elected representatives to share the Playbook with them and begin to implement our new strategy.

As the new Project Manager for the Cleaner Air Partnership beginning in January 2018, I’ve been tasked with continuing to build upon the strong foundation set by fellow VV’ers Tammy Cronin and Tara Thronson before her, their clean air colleagues, and surely others beyond my memory. I’m also responsible, under the supervision of Managing Director Meg Arnold (Valley Vision’s Clean Economy guru), for ensuring that this stepped-up level of activity leads to success. It’s a tough assignment, but achievable with the right partners, good data, and the wind at our backs.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to Valley Vision’s Clean Economy newsletter, share this piece through your networks, or email me if you want to be involved in these efforts (or know someone who does). Join us! Together we can ensure a more healthy, prosperous, and equitable Sacramento region.

Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Manager overseeing the Cleaner Air Partnership and Valley Vision’s online communications.