Steve Frisch: Let’s craft the projects that can improve our communities |

Steve Frisch: Let’s craft the projects that can improve our communities

There has been a lot of back and forth on the Ideas & Opinion pages of The Union recently about whether or not climate change is occurring or if it is human caused. While that debate may be interesting to some, another debate that is much more relevant that affects the lives of thousands of Nevada County residents is getting little attention.

Whether one believes in anthropogenic global warming or not, California made its decision in 2006 with AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, and has moved forward with policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The policy has been tested numerous times both at the ballot box and in the courts and has stood the test of time. The policy is now the law.

California has taken bold action to reduce emissions, priced carbon emissions, created a stable market to reduce carbon emissions (the California Cap and Trade Program and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard), and is now realizing a hefty revenue stream to address climate change. That market is returning billions of dollars to state accounts (called the Greenhouse Gas Investment Fund) to invest in emission reduction projects.

How much money is at stake? The current state budget amount from the fund is more than $2.3 billion and the amount is estimated by the California Department of Finance to increase to more than $5 billion per year by 2020.

California has taken bold action to reduce emissions … and is now realizing a hefty revenue stream to address climate change.

Those funds can only be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The legislature has created programs to distribute the money to local communities to implement projects that meet our emission reduction goal. The funds are now being used to improve transportation networks and infrastructure, install energy efficiency measures, realize water efficiencies, build affordable housing, manage forests and divert waste.

Pragmatic decision-makers in Nevada County who actually govern have an opportunity to realize some of that revenue in our local communities to improve people’s lives and create jobs.

Recently a private developer and the Town of Truckee was awarded $8 million from the fund to redevelop the Truckee Railyard site, which has been an eyesore adjacent to its downtown since the mill there closed more than 30 years ago. Redevelopment of the Truckee Railyard will create hundreds of jobs, increase local tax revenue, provide more than 60 units of affordable housing (along with market rate housing), and expand retail, office and industrial lease space, all on the previously used industrial site. The Railyard project is just one example of what we can do by accessing the fund that already exists and is being allocated annually.

I am hopeful that residents and taxpayers of Nevada County can get to work to get their fair share of these funds by identifying projects that simultaneously improve our environment and create meaningful jobs and housing for local residents.

So while the debate rages over “if” climate change exists, the real debate should be about how to craft the projects that can improve our communities. That debate is going to mean a lot more to Nevada County residents who need jobs, housing and transportation.

Steve Frisch is the president of the Sierra Business Council a nonprofit organization based in Truckee, and the Sierra Small Business Development Center serving a seven county region including Nevada County.

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