Pollution Fines. Image By EARTHWORKS (Aliso Canyon Leak Well Pad 1 Credit: Earthworks) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], Via Wikimedia Commons

The oil spill caused by rupture of the Plains All American Pipeline, Volkswagen’s violation of California’s clean air standards, and now months of methane releases from SoCalGas Company’s Aliso Canyon storage facility–these incidents will produce hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars in pollution fines. These sums could make a critical difference in the acceleration of renewable energy and conservation developments in the Golden State. This is an opportunity that should not be missed.

In the renewable industry I know best, I believe a state investment of about $500 million over the next ten years will leverage $1 billion in private capital to build a waste management system that could convert California’s 9 million tons of organic waste (CalRecycle 2016) to negative carbon fuel. This would be enough to power thousands of heavy duty trucks and buses that operate in the most polluted areas of California: the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

Appropriate level investments in capturing the methane releases from the dairy industry can cap dairy’s huge methane emissions.

And an investment in mobile gasification units could go a long way in reducing the growing presence of catastrophic forest fires whose black carbon is a major and growing source of greenhouse gases.

The technologies to accomplish these reductions exist today.

When it comes to renewable energy investments, it’s imperative that the funds be used wisely on projects that can demonstrate proven performance and are guided by seasoned management teams. Carving up fines in politically expedient ways that are not performance-based can lead to a squandering of precious capital.

I’m encouraged that the leadership in our state, together with their advisors and staffs, have the experience and the insight to insure that funds are well-directed to projects that can produce results: Governor Brown; John Chiang, our highly capable State Treasurer; and Mary Nichols, Chair of the Air Board and our most experienced regulator.

The Refugio oil spill, Volkswagen’s emissions violations and the Gas Company’s methane leak: these events all damaged our air and water. Let’s deploy the monies that will be paid in pollution fines by the responsible parties to make a next-stage investment in California’s renewable energy future. Let’s show the world and demonstrate to the citizens of California that we have both the vision and management skills to make wise use of the fine funds that are coming.

Written on the anniversary of the January 28, 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill—a seminal event in awakening the nation and the world to the growing environmental threats from oil exploitation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *