Dan Walters

Dan Walters
Observations on California and its politics
dwalters@sacbee.com
03/28/2015 – 7:35 PM

A few years ago, when it was first proposed that state “cap-and-trade” fees on carbon emissions be used for the state’s bullet train project, the Legislature’s budget analyst questioned its legality.

Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor’s office noted that state law requires fees to be spent on projects and programs to help the state meet 2020 emission goals.

The bullet train would not be in operation by then, the analysis said, and construction activities would actually increase emissions.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who sees the bullet train as a legacy, pushed hard for the cap-and-trade funds because otherwise the project had no major financing sources for anything beyond a few miles of San Joaquin Valley track.

The Legislature ignored Taylor’s red flag, decreeing that the bullet train would automatically receive 25 percent of cap-and-trade funds. Implicitly, it accepted Brown’s assurances that the electrified bullet train would have a big effect on carbon emissions, particularly by reducing automotive travel.

The question arose again last week, when Jeff Morales, who runs the California High-Speed Rail Authority, appeared before a state Senate committee.

Once again, Morales assured senators that the bullet train would slash carbon emissions deeply to justify its big share of cap-and-trade funds, throwing out some impressive-sounding numbers.

Had the senators been sharper, or more interested, they might have learned that by the CHRA’s own data, the bullet train will have almost no impact on automotive travel, the single biggest source of carbon emissions.

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