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Higher California Gas Prices From Cap-And-Trade Program To Be Spent On High-Speed Rail Project

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) - Starting in January, gas prices in California will creep up again with much of the additional money generated going toward Gov. Jerry Brown's embattled high-speed rail project.

Estimates on how much more range anywhere from 10-20 cents a gallon.

Vehicle emissions will come under the state's cap-and-trade program – designed to reduce greenhouse gases - beginning next year. The cap-and-trade program caps the amount of pollutant that can be emitted by companies, with the allocated limit sold to firms in the form of emission permits. Firms that exceed their limit can buy more permits from others that require fewer permits.

Gas wholesalers are expected to spend more on permits and pass along their increased costs to drivers at the pump.

People will ask what are we getting for that," said State Senate President pro Temp Darrel Steinberg. "We are going to dedicate billions of dollars to public infrastructure and make it easier for people to get out of their cars."

Aside from added buses, BART cars and more housing, under Gov. Brown's recent budget deal with the legislature, $250 million a year will help kickstart the $68 billion high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles – a rail line some say will never be completed.

With other voter-approved funding delayed in the courts, the budget money allocated to high-speed rail triggers federal matching funds as the budget earmarks 25% of the state's cap-and-trade revenue toward the project.

"I thought it was a bad mistake," said state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord). "And 25 percent of that goes into something that doesn't reduce greenhouse gases and won't be able to help with congestion at all."

Rail backers disagree, saying that when completed, high-speed rail will reduce pollution and congestion while creating thousands of new jobs.

"When people start seeing the build out and the fact that we are going to spend more money on infrastructure and mass transit in their districts I think it will be a very different debate," said Steinberg.

The 25% percent of cap-and-trade funds in the budget represents a compromise between Gov. Brown and Democratic lawmakers. The governor wanted 33% while Democratic lawmakers offered 15%.

The governor agreed to give Democrats something they wanted - more money for pre-school programs. Steinberg said he knows Democrats wouldn't have gotten the education funding without the deal on high-speed rail.

"We have a popular governor - high speed rail is his priority," said Steinberg. "It's about horse trading."

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