California High Speed Rail Authority Forfeits Cap and Trade Money
Assemblyman Hadley bill redirects funds to local transit
Lost in the recent announcement that the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) is shifting its initial route to northern California was the fact that this route is ineligible for $600 million in cap and trade funds. In the 2014 budgetary process, the legislature designated cap and trade funds to the High Speed Rail project on the basis that it would provide pollution relief to underserved communities in the Los Angeles Basin. The new route now excludes these underserved communities and removes the entire basis for High Speed Rail receiving these cap and trade funds.
Today, Assemblyman David Hadley (R-Torrance) announced the introduction of Assembly Bill 1717, which will redirect those forfeited cap and trade dollars to fund local transit projects that directly benefit disadvantaged communities.
“The High Speed Rail Authority’s decision to build the northern California route breaks the promise made to Southern California taxpayers. My legislation will ensure that cap and trade dollars go to the disadvantaged communities they are meant to help,” said Assemblyman Hadley.
In 2014, the legislature passed Senate Bill 862, which provided that 25 percent of all cap and trade dollars must go toward benefiting low income Californians. With 60 percent of the state’s disadvantaged communities in Southern California, the change in route for the High Speed Rail effectively makes this requirement impossible to meet.
“It's clear to me that SB 862 authorized funding only for the specific segment identified in the 2012 Business Plan. The bill did not contain language allowing CHSRA to change its mind in a future Business Plan on where funds can be spent,” said David Schonbrunn, president of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (TRANSDEF).
In its 2012 business plan, the CHSRA made a commitment to the California Legislature when it asserted that in exchange for cap and trade funding, it would build the first leg of the High Speed Rail System south, and would accelerate construction of the Burbank to Palmdale segment.
In a letter addressed to Senator Fran Pavley on June 14, 2014, the HSRA committed to use the cap and trade funds granted to the agency through the Senator’s SB 862 to “accelerate work on the segment from Burbank to Palmdale... The Burbank-Palmdale segment, which potentially could become an operating segment on its own, would accelerate benefits to the Los Angeles region.”
AB 1717 will devote the cap and trade funding that HSRA has forfeited to fund the Transportation Agency for the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, which in turn will help the communities of southern California and contribute greatly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for the state.