Radical environmental policies hurt the poor

by Senator Andy Vidak
Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Published in the Hanford Sentinel on February 24, 2015

Californians all want clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, but how we get there cannot come at the expense of our most impoverished communities. Radical Environmentalists don’t seem to agree.  They are blatantly ignoring the real human suffering that their policies, mandates and regulations are inflicting on already-struggling middle-class and low-income families.  Here are just three examples:

Environmental policies that limit water shipments to the Valley – the breadbasket of the world – are taking agricultural land out of production. These policies favor fish over people; they trigger both job losses for farmworkers and higher food prices for all Californians.  Struggling families end up with less money and more expensive food.

Environmental mandates for “renewable” energy are forcing utilities to switch to more expensive, less reliable energy sources.  Those higher costs get passed on to California ratepayers, who already have to pay the highest electricity rates in the country.  Folks in the Central Valley feel the full impact of those high rates during triple-digit summer heat waves, but liberal elites in mild-summer coastal regions don’t.

Environmental regulations, secretly cooked up by non-elected Sacramento bureaucrats, created the recent gas tax hike that went into effect Jan. 1.  Some folks might be surprised to know that the gas tax hike will not be used to fix our roads and highways.  Instead it is being tapped to pay to for various government programs and subsidies supported by radical environmentalists, like the governor’s pet High-Speed Rail project, which I, and the counties of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare oppose.

While gas prices have been going down around the country, in California they started going back up at the beginning of the year.  This hidden gas tax hike is already costing more at the pump, 10-plus cents a gallon more.  And our state government says this new gas tax will keep going up in the months and years to come.

Radical environmentalists and Sacramento bureaucrats need to wake up to the fact that for most Californians gasoline is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.  That’s especially true for folks who live in rural communities where it’s farther to drive to get to work, farther to drive to take kids to school, farther to drive to get family members to a doctor and farther to drive to shop for food and other basics needs.

The effect of artificially increasing the cost of gasoline, diesel and other transportation fuels ripples throughout the economy.  It increases the cost of food, clothing, supplies; everything really, because most of what we buy gets delivered by vehicles using gasoline, natural gas or diesel.  Having the highest energy costs in the country could drive businesses and jobs out of the state, and stop job creating companies from starting, expanding or relocating here.

While the economy is rebounding in other parts of the state, the Valley has not yet recovered from the severe drought conditions.  In fact, the area I represent from Fresno to Bakersfield is the most impoverished area of the state. We have unemployment rates that are a lot higher than the rest of California, and in some communities, they are three and four times higher. The state’s jobless rate is 6.7 percent.  In Fresno County it’s 11 percent.  In King’s County it’s nearly 12 percent.  In Tulare County it’s nearly 13 percent.  In the cities of Kettleman and Earlimart, it’s a devastating 21 and 36 percent, respectively.

California needs to put people first and stop implementing radical environmental schemes that drive our most vulnerable neighbors deeper into poverty.