Thursday, January 13, 2022

More on rural stuff in Newsom's California budget proposal

I wrote about this a few days ago here and now will just highlight some other items that are, shall we say, rural adjacent, though not necessarily labeled as "rural" explicitly in coverage of Newsom's new proposed budget.  What follows is all from Sammy Roth's climate newsletter, Boiling Point in the Los Angeles Times, which, by the way, is excellent.  My only beef is that in this column he does not use the word "rural" or "nonmetro" or even "wildland" (as in the "wildland-urban interface) anywhere in his reporting.  Here are excerpts from the newsletter, including the headings, that implicate rurality: 
1. Nothing more important than transportation.

The governor proposed $6.1 billion in new funds to help Californians ditch gasoline, including $256 million in clean car rebates and other programs for low-income families, $900 million to build electric vehicle chargers in low-income neighborhoods and $419 million for “community-based transportation equity projects.” Those projects could include electric van pools for farmworkers, for instance, or infrastructure to support electric bikes or scooters — whatever local communities determine they most need.  (emphasis added)  
Speaking of transportation, especially for farmworkers, the Los Angles Times reported a few days ago on a pathbreaking program out of the Central Valley town of Huronpopulation 6,754, at the southwest edge of Fresno County.  Here's an excerpt from Evan Halper's story about the city's small-fleet of electric cars for residents' free use:  
For most of Rey León’s life, the city of Huron has been a transportation desert.

When he was a child, it took three hours and 13 stops to ride a bus 53 miles to Fresno to visit a cousin in the hospital. “That experience stuck with me,” he said.

By the time he’d graduated from UC Berkeley and returned to the community to help his aging parents, little had changed. Even after he was elected Huron mayor five years ago, León’s lobbying for reliable bus routes to Fresno, Visalia and Coalinga got nowhere with regional planners, who chafed at the cost.

“It’s always about who do you value and what do you value,” León said. “Farmworker communities have never been valued.”
* * *
Tucked behind the boarded-up buildings of the town’s struggling main drag is an arsenal of innovation that León calls the Green Raiteros. It has put Huron on the map as perhaps the greenest migrant farmworker community in the country. Headquartered in a former diesel truck garage, the growing fleet of nine electric cars managed by León’s Green Raiteros program shuttles residents all over Fresno County free of charge.

Remarkable.  Well done, Mayor. 

Now, back to the Boiling Point newsletter and  the governor's budget:  

3. Cleaning up the electric grid

* * *  

The budget also sets aside $240 million for a specific pumped storage project at Oroville Dam, in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

When state officials built the State Water Project in the 1960s, they gave themselves the ability to “store” energy by pumping water upstream to Oroville Dam when electricity supply exceeded demand, then releasing water back downstream — spinning electric turbines along the way — when demand exceeded supply. But the system hasn’t been used for about 15 years, since it interferes with the state’s ability to release enough cold water from Oroville into the Feather River, to help salmon and other fish survive.
4. Not just traditional climate stuff

Sanchez was especially excited to talk about proposed investments that might not normally be considered part of a climate plan, but which she sees as critically important for helping Californians cope with — and work to prevent — rising temperatures.

One of those investments is $1 billion for new housing — and not just any housing, but “infill” housing within developed areas, rather than sprawling new subdivisions that create the need for long car trips. Newsom wants to spend $500 million building homes on “prime infill parcels in downtown-oriented areas.” Another $300 million would go to the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program, which funds “land-use, housing, transportation and land preservation projects.”
* * * 
6. A Unique Approach to Lithium Valley

If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you know one of my favorite stories is lithium extraction and geothermal energy in the Imperial Valley, at the southern end of the Salton Sea. The super-heated geothermal reservoir thousands of feet beneath the salty lake could produce loads of lithium for electric vehicle batteries, along with round-the-clock climate-friendly power.

Newsom’s budget doesn’t propose funding the companies looking to tap that reservoir, but it does dangle a promise that might be even more valuable — faster and simpler environmental permitting. In exchange for that regulatory support, the companies would need to agree to some kind of revenue sharing, to make sure the people of the Imperial Valley — a low-income, largely Latino region dominated by the agriculture industry — actually benefit from the new economic development.
7. Maybe Tesla Will Come Back
* * *
Other budget provisions could create new jobs plugging abandoned oil and gas wells — a big source of pollution in Los Angeles and statewide. In addition to $200 million for well plugging, Newsom proposed $15 million for a pilot program to train displaced oil and gas workers for those jobs, and a $50-million pilot fund to support displaced fossil fuel workers more broadly.8. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget fire and drought

Last year’s budget included $1.5 billion to fight wildfires. This year’s adds $1.2 billion, much of it for forest thinning, prescribed burns and other projects to reduce fire risks. It also adds $750 million to last year’s $5.2 billion for drought response, including $180 million for water suppliers to plug leaks, tear out grass and improve efficiency; $145 million in emergency assistance for communities at risk of going dry; $75 million to protect fish and wildlife; and $30 million for replenishing groundwater.

One other item that caught my attention: $40 million “to repurpose irrigated agricultural land to reduce reliance on groundwater while providing community health, economic well-being, water supply, habitat, renewable energy, and climate benefits.”

No comments: