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Environmental justice movement on the rise in Sacramento

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By Laurel Rosenhall May 21, 2017 SF Chronicle full article here

…But [Governor Brown’s] Los Angeles trip reflects the rise of environmental justice concerns inside the Capitol. A new generation of legislators and the growing clout of eco-advocates from urban communities is changing the focus of environmental debates in California. Once sidelined as a fringe voice of activism, the environmental justice perspective — focused on how environmental decisions affect poor communities and people of color — is now at the center of high-profile deliberations.

It’s emerged at the California Air Resources Board, which is overseeing plans by Volkswagen to invest $800 million in the state as part of the legal settlement over its emissions cheating scandal. And it’s become pervasive at the state Capitol, where lawmakers are wrestling with proposals to extend California’s cap-and-trade program, a key piece of the state’s fight against global warming that makes industry pay for emitting too much greenhouse gas…

…Some environmental justice advocates are calling for radical changes. The advisory committee that reports to Brown’s Air Resources Board proposes eliminating cap and trade altogether and replacing it with a system that gives polluters less leeway. But disadvantaged communities reap some benefits from cap and trade. One-fourth of the money generated from cap-and-trade auctions must be spent to benefit poor parts of the state, on things like solar power, electric vehicles and low-carbon transit. Brown highlighted these funds at a recent budget news conference in which he made the case that lawmakers should approve an extension of cap and trade this year.

Benefits to low-income communities — or lack thereof — have also emerged as a point of contention in the debate over how Volkswagen will spend $800 million in California. It’s one piece of a larger legal settlement the car manufacturer reached with the government last year after it admitted installing technology to cheat pollution limits…

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