At a press conference at the site of the KNP Complex Fire in Sequoia National Park on Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed and approved funding a $15 billion climate bill, the largest in California history.
Included as part of the 2021-2022 state budget addendum, the additional $15 billion is broken down into several separate smaller spending packages for different wildfire, climate, and environmental programs. These include:
- $5.2 Billion for the Water and Drought Resilience Package
Package includes $5.2 billion to be spent over the next three years for more drought relief projects, water supply expansion, more water and wastewater infrastructure, increased drought response, and a focus on getting water to smaller communities. Wildlife and habitat restoration efforts are also tied into the package.
- $3.9 Billion for the Zero-Emission Vehicle Package
Also a part of the more broader California Comeback Plan, $3.9 billion will go to the transition to electric and other zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV). Infrastructure to support electric vehicles, as well as the state purchase of 1,000 ZEV trucks, 1,000 ZEV school buses, and 1,000 ZEV transit buses for areas that need them is a large part of the package. However, new electric vehicle rebates and incentives will also be included in the bill to help spur wider adoption and to help phase into California halting the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035.
- $3.7 Billion for the Climate Resilience Package
Designing to combat extreme heat and climate change, the Climate resilience package will fund urban greening projects, urban heat island reduction grants, and other temperature based programs. Coastal protection projects, ecosystem protections, and the expansion of the California Climate Action Corps will also be funded through the package.
- $1.5 Billion for the Wildfire and Forest Resilience Package
The wildfire package, comprised of $536 million previously approved in April and $988 million allocated for 2021-2022, goes after the reduction of wildfire risk and environmental restoration in areas scorched by wildfires. Under this package, wildfire building hardening efforts, fuel breaks, and fuel reduction programs will be implemented, as well as an expansion of the woods product market to help selectively harvest trees to reduce fuel and build up local economies.
More fire crews, purchasing of needed equipment such as aircraft, and wildlands restoration efforts are some of the main areas of funding in the package as outlined by the initial Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan that came out in January.
- $1.1 Billion for the Climate Smart Agriculture Package
Set to be divested over the next two years, the Climate Smart Agriculture Package will fund livestock methane reduction measures, replacement of agricultural equipment to reduce emissions, farm conservation measures, and healthy soil management endeavors. Healthy food access programs will also be expanded statewide, helping promote the California agricultural industry.
- Other Package Programs
Also included in the package is a $270 million program that reduces pollutants from waste management companies and $150 million for waterfront parks in cities.
Newsom signs, approves $15 billion package
In a speech following the signing, Governor Newsom noted that the climate crisis and the subsequent rise in wildfires are getting worse, necessitating California leading the way in climate change funding and finding better ways to conserve resources. Newsom also pointed out the record-breaking state funding amount that California would be pouring into the efforts over the next several years.
“It’s an unprecedented investment by any state in U.S. history,” explained Newsom on Thursday. “We have a responsibility in California to get things done because we are the tip of the spear.
“I mean, traditions, lifestyle, people, places wiped off the map. That’s what climate is about. Something extreme is happening and it’s happening decades before the scientists even believed.
“Eight degrees. That’s the track we’re on. That’s the inheritance we’re leaving kids; can’t imagine our grand kids. So, with that. It’s signed, this $15 billion package into law.”
While many environmental groups approved of the spending shortly after Newsom’s signing on Thursday, others, most notably farmers, spoke out against how the $15 billion was being spent.
“Not much of this went to agriculture, and of that that did, it’s going to things that we don’t need, like new tractors,” said Kyle Rowe, a farmer in the Central Valley who has organized several farms to demand more water, to the Globe on Thursday. “What we need is more access to water. Once we’re back on our feet, then we can talk about all those environmental things.
“Farmers and agricultural workers are not opposed to doing our part to combat climate change. But right now, we are all worried about our survival. We’re all worried about how much water we’ll be getting. We’re all worried about if we’ll even have a farm in five years.
“It’s good to see that some money is going to efforts that do that or will expand access, but what Newsom put aside for farms out of this $15 billion. It reads like it was written by a bunch of academics in Stanford and Davis and other Universities rather than those on the ground who actually know what’s needed and see every day what’s needed.
“And we know it’s not just about farms. People need help from wildfires and people in cities need water too, and it’s good that the bill is helping them too. But, as agriculture was just slammed this year by the drought, and seeing this do little to help, it’s a disappointment. I would have loved to see Newsom say that dams should stop releasing water for purposes that don’t help farms or people who need drinking water, but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen.”
The over $15 billion in program packages are expected to be divested soon.
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