Gavin Newsom seeks to reclaim California’s status as climate change leader in his budget

Jan 11, 2022 at 3:25pm


Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed spending $22 billion on climate, water and wildfire initiatives Monday — and moved to reassert California’s status as an international leader on global warming and other environmental issues.

Unveiling his $286.4 billion budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year, Newsom called on the Legislature to spend tax dollars on a wide range of environmental causes, everything from electrifying school buses to retrofitting buildings to capping oil wells. He asked for funds to help coastal cities cope with the threat of rising seas and help San Joaquin Valley cities like Fresno create “urban greening” projects to tamp down heat waves.

As much as anything, the governor’s budget seemed like an attempt to push back on criticisms in recent months that California was pulling its punches on climate issues.

Two months ago, while attending the Glasgow climate summit, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told Cal Matters that “I don’t at all feel that we are leading the world anymore.” The state auditor said California is likely to fall short of reaching its greenhouse gas reduction goals for 2030.

At several points during a press conference at the Natural Resources Agency building, Newsom — blessed with a projected $45.7 billion budget surplus — called his climate spending proposal unprecedented and unsurpassed.

For instance, he outlined $6.1 billion over five years on incentives for electric cars, buses and trucks, along with 100,000 new electric charging stations. The funding includes $250 million for rebates for lower-income Californians.

“No one else is committed to doing more in this space,” the governor said.

Wade Crowfoot, the secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, added that the total budget probably represents “the largest and broadest climate investment of its kind anywhere in the world.”

Newsom waded into one of the hottest environmental controversies facing the state, saying he wants to the Public Utilities Commission to reconsider its plan to slash subsidies paid by PG&E Corp. and other major utilities to owners of rooftop solar panels who ship excess power to the electricity grid.

“We have work to do,” he said.

He suggested discussions are already under way to tweak the proposal. “Many parties, many conversations, lots of balls in the air,” he said.

The commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal Jan. 27. Solar power advocates have said the commission’s plan would cripple their industry.

The governor wants to spend $380 million developing “long-duration” energy storage facilities — essentially mega-batteries that could hold electricity for eight hours. Such facilities could prove critical in maintaining grid reliability as the state moves away from fossil fuels.

Newsom proposed $1.2 billion to reduce wildfire risks by “thinning” forests and conducting so-called prescribed burns. He asked lawmakers for $750 million on drought programs, and $1 billion in tax incentives for companies developing green energy technologies.

Yet even as he proposed billions in new spending on climate issues, some environmentalists said Newsom still isn’t going far enough.

Continue reading the article from the Sacramento Bee here