1/7/14 by the Los Angeles Times.
Environmental groups oppose the plan to dip into hundreds of millions of dollars in fees from businesses whose carbon dioxide emissions exceed state limits.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to provide urgently needed new funding for California’s bullet train project from corporate fees on greenhouse gases melds two of his political passions: building the nation’s first, truly high-speed rail system and putting the state at the forefront of the battle against global warming.
The bullet train system suffered a series of legal blows last year that blocked $9 billion in state funding, sending Brown and his allies on a search for a new source of funds. This week, Brown plans to announce a new strategy to keep the project moving: dipping into hundreds of millions of dollars in fees collected from businesses whose carbon dioxide emissions exceed state limits.
But he may be trading one set of legal and political problems for another.
The thought of tapping those so-called cap-and-trade funds to support the $68-billion rail line is generating opposition from powerful environmental groups that have in the past allied themselves with the governor, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Planning and Conservation League.
The electrically powered bullet train has been marketed by the state rail agency as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from California’s vast transportation system. But those benefits may not be realized for many years and environmentalists would prefer the funds go to projects that can have larger immediate effects on what they consider an urgent climate crisis.
“The high-speed rail board is trying to make the best of a troubled situation, but I don’t think raiding cap-and-trade is the right direction to go,” said Bruce Reznik, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League.
The planned bullet train system’s needs are so vast it could become a “money pit,” Reznik said.
Brown’s new funding plan would offer a short-term but important solution to the bullet train’s financial problems but leaves many crucial, longer-term issues murky.