In the wee hours on Thursday morning, the California Legislature concluded its 2021–2022 legislative session, including finalizing a months-long process of adopting the final details of the state budget and a weeks-long process of passing expansive climate policies.
Last week the legislature finalized California’s 21-22 budget, after months of negotiations and months of advocacy to ensure that state investments addressed priorities of lower income and communities of color in Inland California.
Here’s our take on budget bills passed since the passage and signing of AB 128 and AB 129.
We found some good, some not so good, and some unfinished business.
- We thank the Legislature and Governor Newsom for listening to community voices and allocating $100 million for Climate Resilience Centers. This investment builds on the initial $150 million allocated to the California Department of Food and Agriculture for climate resilience centers and fairgrounds.
- We are pleased to see $115 million allocation in this fiscal year for the Transformative Climate Communities program which will help implement climate resilience plans like those in the Eastern Coachella Valley and Matheny Tract. We understand there is an agreement to fund this program at $420 million over the next three years. We urge the Legislature and Governor to codify this commitment as soon as possible and fund this program continuously from now on.
- The water shut-off moratorium was extended through the end of this year. This will help make sure families have access to water in their homes as COVID cases surge in Inland California communities. Given uncertainty with respect to both COVID and debt relief efforts, a further extension may be necessary.
- We appreciate additional funding for other community-led climate resilience planning and programs that will drive climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.
The Not So Good
- We are disappointed to see additional funding available for dairy digesters including the $32 million in General Funds this year. We oppose allocation of these funds for digesters along with additional funding for dairy digesters in future years. Dairy digesters perpetuate environmental injustice, groundwater contamination and air pollution, while incentivizing the expansion of factory farm dairies and the production of methane. They do not produce clean energy. Factory farm gas has no place in a clean energy economy.
- We are disappointed that there was no allocation of funding for community protections from pesticide exposure for workers and communities impacted by pesticides. We will keep advocating for increased protections, and will ensure that the new pesticide notification network is effective in the meantime.
- We appreciate the investment in Salton Sea management and restoration but are disappointed that there is no targeted funding for community-identified projects. Communities at the Sea have identified diverse climate resilient and adaptive projects that provide multiple benefits including direct public health and recreation benefits to communities near the Sea.
- We are pleased to see a significant investment in groundwater management but need to see that investment target projects that protect access to drinking water in disadvantaged communities, and technical assistance for community engagement. We urge the Department of Water Resources to fund community engagement and require that all funded projects meaningfully benefit disadvantaged communities.
- We appreciate continued support of the AB 617 program but funding and policies must better support air quality improvements through enforceable direct emission reductions, transparent governance, and community-led decision-making.
- We see both risks and opportunities in the newly minted Community Economic Resilience Fund. The Fund lays out a priority of equity but it is unclear if it will be implemented in a way that puts workers and community members most impacted by COVID-19 and climate change in leadership roles within the program, or if environmental justice impacts and benefits will be considered in the economic development strategies, or if the stated goal of carbon neutrality will allow the continued practice of trading and offset schemes to disproportionately burden disadvantaged communities and the region.
- Similarly, we see risk and opportunities in the Fresno Merced Future of Food Innovation Initiative (F3). F3, if implemented well, can catalyze a just, collaborative, community-led process to implement economic, environmental and racial justice-focused programs for the region’s food and agricultural economy. However, if implemented poorly, it can also lead to increased exclusion of agricultural workers and small-scale farmers from the benefits of the future of agriculture, reinforce unsustainable and unjust agricultural practices, and center agricultural production on technology and profit to the detriment of people and the wellbeing of the region as a whole.
- We appreciate the acknowledgment of the need for more research and oversight of any continued taxpayer subsidies for dairy digesters. If done right, this research will show that factory farm gas is not a climate solution, that it harms local communities and worsens climate impacts, air pollution & water quality, all while extending the unsustainable natural gas and large-scale dairy industries. However, if the research is conducted by and skewed in favor of industry, it will not provide the in-depth analysis needed as to the true social, climate, environmental justice and economic costs associated with dairy digesters. Additionally, while the limitation for dairy biogas eligibility in the state’s new climate catalyst fund is a step in the right direction, we prefer that no state dollars support any dairy digesters and dairy biogas infrastructure.
- We worked throughout the year to secure funding for land repurposing projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged communities facing water security. We are pleased to see funding for land repurposing and an articulated prioritization for projects benefiting disadvantaged communities, but it is critical that the Department of Conservation ensure that outcome through a targeted set aside for disadvantaged communities or funding criteria that clearly prioritizes projects benefiting disadvantaged communities.
Another tumultuous budget process during the worldwide pandemic, with an unprecedented surplus revenue called for bold and transformative investments to build California back better. We thank community residents, advocates, and legislators that advocated for a state budget that would support a resilient, healthy, and equitable Inland California. And although great progress was made, there is much work to be done to ensure effective and equitable implementation of both investments and programs to advance environmental and racial justice in California.
We look forward to partnering with several state agencies to ensure these and other budget allocations build a One Just California.