California's landmark anti-global warming law will reach a new milestone in January 2015. That's when the state's cap and trade regulations begin to apply to transportation fuels like gas and diesel.
It's part of an effort to reduce the state's CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. But industry groups and the state's non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office say the regulations could also drive up prices at the pump.
Earlier this summer Fresno Assemblymember Henry T. Perea drafted a bill that would delay the implementation of the regulations for transportation fuel for three more years, saying that higher gas prices would hurt the low income residents in the San Joaquin Valley.
On Monday though, Senate President Pro Temp Darrel Steinberg announced that he plans to block the bill, saying that the cost of doing nothing in the face of global warming is a greater danger.
Perea joined us this week on Valley Edition to talk about the issue and why he thinks a delay is necessary.
Some highlights from our interview:
On the way Perea claims the regulations will hurt the valley:
Perea: "If you live in the Bay Area where you have BART and a lot of public transportation, you don't necessarily drive to get around. But when you live in Fresno, or you live in rural Fresno County, you need your car. In fact I know farm workers personally who have to drive from Mendota all the way out to Orange Cove depending on what the season is, in order to get to work every day. For somebody who is making minimum wage, and could see a potential increase of 50 cents or more a gallon it's going to be a huge hit on their family budget, as opposed to somebody who lives in an area which has an abundant amount of public transportation."
On the need to soften the impact of new regulations on poorer parts of California:
Perea: "I think we need to realize that there is a real disparity between coastal California and inland California. And the economic realities of inland California, places like Fresno and the valley, are very different than those who live on the coast and the Bay Area. We have higher concentrations of unemployment, poverty and so many other economic issues that our residents just can't handle the higher taxes in the same way that the wealthy folks in the coastal areas can absorb."
On global warming:
Perea: "It's very real and we know the science has proven to show that it's happening. So we know that global warming is having a huge impact for example on things like the drought. So we know that that's happening, it's real and we have to do everything possible to address it and reverse it. The question is how do we do that and make sure that it's practical.
One example we should look to is the smog test back in the 1980's when the smog test was first implemented. The Legislature realized that the poor, the working poor were disproportionately impacted by the cost associated with the smog check program. So after the initial legislation there I believe two maybe three bills introduced to make it easier for low income people to comply with the smog check. Well, I don't understand why we can't have that same conversation about fuels coming under the cap. It's just not making sense."
On the way the cap and trade funds are administered, and the need for better public transportation in the valley, and more access to affordable alternative fuel vehicles:
Perea: "My hope is that as we go through these scoping plans and talk about how this money is spent that they're not just throwing money at local organizations, but really implementing a comprehensive strategy to really help people. Because if my constituents are going to have to pay 50 cents or more per gallon or more in gas to the state, they better get something in return for it. And in the past if you raise gas taxes it was typically to improve roads. So if they're not going to get better roads, than they better get better infrastructure, so they can buy the alternative fuel vehicles that the state is saying they want them to have."