California Policy NewsFlash

Sac Bee: Mary Nichols hopes to carry on at California Air Resources Board

Mary Nichols hopes to carry on at California Air Resources Board

By Rick Daysog
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010 – 8:58 am
Chairwoman Mary Nichols of the Air Resources Board is expected to keep her job as Democrat Jerry Brown pushes ahead with the state’s climate change policies.

In 1979, Gov. Jerry Brown tapped Mary Nichols, then an up-and-coming environmental lawyer, to lead the state’s top clean air agency.

Decades later, Brown is widely expected to reappoint Nichols as chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board as he pushes ahead with the state’s landmark greenhouse gas reduction policy.

“There is so much at stake in California in terms of climate change and energy policy, and there is so much need for continuity,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California. “Mary is someone who is very knowledgeable about the issues and who is committed to carry out those policies.”

Nichols said she hasn’t had a formal discussion about what role she will play in the Brown administration, but she said she would prefer to remain at the Air Resources Board to oversee expansion of the board’s climate change policies.

As head of the ARB under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nichols is credited with keeping the state’s ambitious climate change policies on track, just as those policies came under attack from a rollback initiative funded largely by out-of-state oil interests.

That voters rejected the rollback measure, Proposition 23, in November by 22 points showed that the “public recognizes that we are on the right course,” she said.

Under the Brown administration, Nichols said California’s green energy and climate change policies will remain on the same course. But she noted that the agency will have to make do with less.

With the state facing a multibillion dollar deficit, there will likely be fewer staff members and less travel to international conferences in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Cancún, Mexico.

Gone are the glitzy annual governor’s global climate summits attended by heads of state, Nobel laureates and Hollywood film stars.

For Nichols, the style differences between Schwarzenegger and Brown are substantial.

The Schwarzenegger administration always has a glamorous edge to it.

Nichols recalled giving a public address in 2007 at the University of Geneva, where organizers announced her speech in banners spread across streets.

One of the Swiss newspapers ran a headline the next day saying “Schwarzenegger sends his right arm,” she said.

The incoming Democrat is a more engaging type of chief executive who will “call at almost any hour of the day or night and cross-examine you for an hour or two about some energy policy,” she said.

“He’s the the most energetic 72-year-old I’ve ever met,” Nichols said of Brown. “The hard part will be keeping up with him.”

Bonnie Holmes-Gen, senior policy director for the American Lung Association of California, believes that Nichols will be up to the challenge.

“She guided the air board during a very challenging and very important time,” said Holmes-Gen. “She has a great deal of credibility … and political savvy that makes her a very strong leader.”

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2010 California Regional Progress Report Released by Caltrans & Strategic Growth Council

The 2010 California Regional Progress Report: One State, Many Regions, Our Future was publicly released for the first time at the December 3 Strategic Growth Council meeting. The report presents twenty integrated, place-based quality-of-life indicators that benchmark and measure the progress of the regions in moving toward sustainability. It was developed with the collaboration of more than 40 state, regional, non-profit and academic organizations.

The Strategic Growth Council will be using the report to convene policy discussions on the findings and implications,  as well as coordinate data and indicator work around sustainability.  Further, the Council will be developing a recommended set of sustainability indicators. The State report catalogs the Schwarzenegger administration sustainability achievements, and recommends unifying California’s sustainability approach.

2010 California Regional Progress Report

Report sponsors include the California Department of Transportation and the California Strategic Growth Council, in partnership with the University of California at Davis, governance reform group California Forward, regional government association CALCOG, the non-profit WELL Network, and regional Councils of Government and transportation agencies from Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Shasta, and Calaveras.

Report Highlights

  • Resource for understanding the critical challenges and opportunities facing California related to sustainability
  • Provides an integrated approach to defining sustainability for California
  • Shows the progress across regions and for the state as a whole on a wide range of issues related to economic vitality, environmental quality, and high quality of life. (or economic, social, human, and environmental well-being indicators)
  • Calls attention to regional-scale issues such as air quality, housing affordability, vehicle miles traveled and electricity use
  • Finds gaping data needs for important regional indicators such as new development, combined housing and transportation costs, and equity – issues that currently can’t be measured
  • Identifies regional disparities in making progress, with challenges in the San Joaquin valley and rural regions in particular
  • Shows positive trends in almost half of the issues measured, including green business, vehicle miles traveled, air quality, water use, and transit ridership
  • Calls for dialogue between state, regional, and local governments to share successful strategies, address regional disparities, define sustainability, and improve sustainability measurement
  • Was developed with the collaboration of more than 40 state, regional, non-profit and academic organizations
California Policy Federal Policy High-Speed Rail NewsFlash Transportation Funding US DOT

US DOT: $1.2B in High Speed Rail Funds Redirected ~ CA Gains $624M

DOT 208-10
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Contact: Olivia Alair
Tel: (202) 366-4570

U.S. Department of Transportation Redirects $1.195 Billion in High-Speed Rail Funds

WASHINGTON U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that $1.195 billion in high-speed rail funds originally designated for Wisconsin and Ohio will be redirected to other states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors across the United States. Wisconsin has suspended work under its existing high-speed rail agreement and the incoming Governors in Wisconsin and Ohio have both indicated that they will not move forward to use high-speed rail money received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  As a result, $1.195 billion will be redirected to high-speed rail projects already underway in other states.

“High-speed rail will modernize America’s valuable transportation network, while reinvigorating the manufacturing sector and putting people back to work in good-paying jobs,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I am pleased that so many other states are enthusiastic about the additional support they are receiving to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life.”

The Recovery Act included $8 billion to launch a national high-speed rail program that will modernize America’s transportation network, spur economic development domestically and keep the U.S. competitive with other leading nations. High-speed rail grants announced under the Recovery Act can be used only for high-speed rail projects and not for other transportation projects.

Last year, the Obama Administration received a commitment from 30 domestic and foreign rail manufacturers to establish or expand their base of operations in the United States if selected for contracts building America’s high-speed rail network. These rail manufacturers and suppliers committed to not only locate in the U.S., but to ensure high-speed rail projects are built by American workers with American-made supplies. To deliver maximum economic benefits to American taxpayers, the Administration’s high-speed rail program also includes a 100 percent ‘Buy American’ requirement.

Under the Recovery Act, the Federal Railroad Administration originally announced $810 million for Wisconsin’s Milwaukee-Madison corridor and $400 million for Ohio’s Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland “3C” route. The Federal Railroad Administration will redirect $810 million from Wisconsin and $385 million from Ohio, and will work with these states to determine whether they have already spent money under their contracts that should be reimbursed.

The $1.195 billion originally designated for those high-speed rail projects in Wisconsin and Ohio will now be used to support projects in the following states:

  • California: up to $624 million
  • Florida: up to $342.3 million
  • Washington State: up to $161.5 million
  • Illinois: up to $42.3 million
  • New York: up to $7.3 million
  • Maine: up to $3.3 million
  • Massachusetts: up to $2.8 million
  • Vermont: up to $2.7 million
  • Missouri up to $2.2 million
  • Wisconsin: up to $2 million for the Hiawatha line
  • Oregon: up to $1.6 million
  • North Carolina: up to $1.5 million
  • Iowa: up to $309,080
  • Indiana: up to $364,980