Gov. Brown wants to use pollution funds for California bullet train

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to allot money from the cap-and-trade fund to get the California high-speed rail back on track.
January 9, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
California Gov. Jerry Brown says the proposed $68-billion bullet train, a 2-hour trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco, is a great initiative and his budget presents a way to help fund it.

"California is that generator of dreams and great initiatives," Brown said.

The state already collects fees from industries that pollute based on their output of green house gases. It's called the cap and trade fund. Brown wants to allot $250 million of it to get high-speed rail back on track, tying the economies of Northern and Southern California.

"There is no doubt that the high-speed rail is a reducer of green house gases, an enhancement of California life and a bringing together of the various regions of our state," said Brown.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is among the environmental groups raising questions. They support the train to cut pollution from commuter jets and take cars off freeways, but there are other green projects facing review and competing for the same cap and trade funds.

"The legislature is going to have to take a close look at that project," said Joel Reynolds with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "What is the greenhouse gas emission reduction benefit? What's the time frame in which we realistically can expect it to be achieved?"

A recent court decision has rail planners scrambling. The project cannot proceed with federal stimulus dollars unless state matching funds are in place.

Then there are the opponents who call the bullet train a boondoggle. The governor points them to the Golden Gate Bridge or the Panama Canal.

"No big project was free of very strong, criticism, skepticism or attack," said Brown.

Legislators must now decide if the governor's proposal is viable. As for his budget, green advocates praise it. Last year, $500 million of cap and trade funds was borrowed to pay down the deficit. This year, $850 million will help clean the air.


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