With Earth Day approaching on April 22, it’s easy to get discouraged by President Donald Trump’s attacks on environmental laws. Last month, the president, flanked by oil industry executives and coal miners, sought to scrap Obama administration environmental rules, including the Clean Power Plan. Trump has also proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent — more than any federal department — and he’s filling government positions with climate change deniers.
But the Bay Area is fighting back. Public agencies, companies and communities throughout the region are redoubling their efforts to build an environmentally sustainable future.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District recently released a bold clean air plan and climate strategy. The proposal seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 in the nine-county area. The air district’s plan would also improve public health by lowering air pollution exposures across the region.
Earlier this month, Silicon Valley Clean Energy launched its program to provide 100 percent carbon-free electricity to 68,000 residential and business customers in Santa Clara County. After enrolling another 180,000 customers in July, the new service will cut 600,000 tons of carbon pollution annually — equivalent to taking 150,000 cars off the road. SVCE joins other clean energy programs in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties and an East Bay program opening this fall.
Bay Area officials and transportation advocates, with help from Gov. Jerry Brown, are fighting to restore federal grant funds to electrify Caltrain, a project that would reduce air pollution, cut traffic congestion and create jobs in our region. Meanwhile, BART is improving transit infrastructure, thanks to a bond measure that voters approved last November.
In the corporate world, Facebook, Google and Apple are powering their computer servers with renewable energy. Tesla’s vision of autonomously driven, electric cars fueled by carbon-free solar has helped the company surpass the stock value of General Motors and Ford. Next month, Acterra, a nonprofit group, will honor 10 Bay Area companies and organizations for their environmental leadership at a ceremony at Intuit in Mountain View.
Despite our polarized politics, it’s not only Democrats in the Bay Area calling for a clean energy future. President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, who works at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford, supports a revenue-neutral carbon tax and dividend proposal. Shultz’s plan would tax carbon emissions at $40 per ton, increasing each year to incentivize energy efficiency and renewables. The funds collected would be distributed to all Americans — about $2,000 per year for a family of four.
So this Earth Day — even if we anticipate more disturbing anti-environment policies coming from President Trump — look for encouragement in the innovation now underway in the Bay Area. Trump may try to slow us down, but with public agencies, businesses and community leaders working together, the path to a healthy environment remains open.
Adam Stern is executive director of Acterra, a Bay Area environmental group based in Palo Alto.