California climate investments map.

What We Expected in 2015: Environmental & Climate Policy of Interest to Angelenos

Posted by on December 28, 2015

In December 2014, I made a number of predictions concerning environmental & climate policies in 2015.

How did I do? Pretty well, I think.

Let’s review….

What I Predicted:
Governor Jerry Brown will establish a new greenhouse gas emission target. To meet the long-term goal, Governor Brown will establish a target of 35% below 1990 by 2030.
What Happened:
Exceptionally close. On April 29, Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-30-15, establishing a 40% (not 35% as predicted) reduction target. Even better news!

What I Predicted:
The industry response will be predictable: electric utilities will comply, but oil companies will perseverate in their stealthy ways.
What Happened:
Dead on. Electric utilities worked with state legislators while the Western States Petroleum Association has played a zero-sum game, fighting the state at every turn.

What I Predicted:
California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), derived from cap-and-trade auctions, will be declared a winner. This fiscal year, $850 million will be spent to reduce GHG emissions in California. In 2015-16, the budget may be upwards of $2 billion.
What Happened:
Nailed it. California Climate Investments, the new name for GGRF, has sent hundreds of millions of dollars to disadvantaged communities (see map).

What I Predicted:
SoCal will get its rightful share. Thanks to Senate Pro Temp Kevin de Leon’s law, SB 535, low-income communities will be given priority on cap-and-trade dollars. With more poor people than the rest of the state combined, Los Angeles should see a big chunk of pollution-cutting dollars.
What Happened:
Half-right. Southern California received a proportionate share of transportation dollars, but a low percent of affordable housing, transit-oriented-development, dollars. Hope 2016 shows improvement.

What I Predicted:
The City of Los Angeles will release its long-anticipated Sustainability Plan in January and it will be a blockbuster. Touching on everything from housing and climate preparedness to energy-efficient buildings and livable neighborhoods, the comprehensive plan will also demonstrate how the city can lead by example.
What Happened:
Yes. On April 8, Mayor Garcetti released his pLAn for LA — and it’s really superb. Hats off to Matt Petersen, Ted Bardacke, Hilary Firestone, Susana Reyes, and all others. Climate Resolve especially likes the target of reducing the city’s temperature by 1.7°F by 2025.

What I Predicted:
Mayor Garcetti’s superb earthquake resilience program will be discovered to help environmental initiatives as well. Los Angeles’ greatest vulnerability is its dependence on imported water. Earthquakes threaten to shatter the region’s aqueducts; therefore building local water resources can make LA more resilient. This reframing is crucial in winning public support for water recycling, stormwater capture, and conservation.
What Happened:
Verdict not yet in. Earlier this year, the Mayor appointed a chief resilience officer but we have not seen evidence of elevating and combining climate resilience with resilience to seismic events.

What I Predicted:
LADWP will seek a rate increase in Q3. You’d think environmentalists would line up behind a much-needed rate increase, as it is one of the few ways to raise funds to build new water and energy projects. But I predict my environmental colleagues will complain too much (the good being the enemy of the perfect), and possibly scuttle the deal.
What Happened:
Close & happily wrong. The LADWP rate request is happening now in Q4. And, better news, the environmental community has been very supportive of the rate case. (Am I too cynical about my environmental colleagues?)

What I Predicted:
Prop. 1, the state water bond, will partially fund the cleanup of the San Fernando Valley aquifer, a Superfund site, enabling the City of Los Angeles to store more stormwater and recycled water. The California Water Commission will vote on these and other projects in 2015. The Southland should also compete for other programs in the bond measure.
What Happened:
Too soon to tell. Prop. 1 dollars have not yet been fully dedicated. Guidelines are largely complete, and applications and awards should follow in 2016.

What I Predicted:
Three key regional planning efforts will align in 2015 and arrive at the same conclusion: Southern California needs more public transportation. 1) Metro’s Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is tasked with alleviating traffic congestion. 2) SCAG’s RTP/Sustainable Communities Strategy seeks to reduce GHG emissions by getting people out of their cars. 3) South Coast’s Air Quality Management Plan works to reduce air pollution. All three plans are substantially aided by getting people to travel by bus and rail. Which brings us to a new countywide transit measure (R2) will get rolling in 2015. Although the vote will actually take place in November 2016, Move LA is conducting meetings now.
What Happened:
Mostly right. Metro’s LRTP is moving forward, and is informing the development of a new transportation measure. I was wrong about integration among the agencies.

Status of major transit projects in LA in 2015:

The Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit project will be completed in Q1
– Wrong. The BRT was completed in Q3.

Gold Line Foothill & Expo Phase 2 are almost built; safety tests begin in Q4 and service begins in early 2016
– Correct. The keys have been handed from the developers to Metro. Gold Line is opening in March 2016 and Expo in April or May.

Purple Line subway and Downtown Regional Connector: earth moving (e.g., big construction) begins in 2015
– Correct. It’s happening.

CicLAvia expands. This spring, look to CicLAvia coming first to the San Fernando Valley and then to Pasadena. Summer will see an event connecting Culver City with the beach, and CicLAvia will return to downtown LA in the fall.
– Correct. God, these events were wonderful!

The drought continues. No matter how mighty the winter storms, water supplies will remain low.
– All too true. In 2015, the drought was ruthless.

In 2015, anticipate the release of a landmark study looking at climate change affecting Santa Ana wind events and wildfire.
– Wonderfully true. Climate Resolve helped release this exceptionally thorough study.

This year, Los Angeles will host a delegation of Chinese cities on climate matters.
– Oui. The U.S. State Department worked with the City of Los Angeles to host an exceptional gathering in September at LA Live.

What did I miss?

The December COP 21 conference in Paris was the climate story of the decade. Big credit goes to Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Thanks to her leadership, there are now real targets to drive down greenhouse gas emissions. It’s now up to the public to ensure their states comply with Paris, and even execute on their national commitments sooner than later.

The other big missed story was Big Oil’s ability to control Democratic legislators. The defeat of the oil provision in Senate Bill 350 was a traumatic but temporary setback.

— Jonathan Parfrey