More Than $50 Million Approved for Air Quality Improvement Projects in Coachella Valley
DIAMOND BAR – Supervisor John J. Benoit praised public engagement, outreach and the open process that resulted in more than $50 million in investment in the Coachella Valley unanimously approved today by the South Coast Air Quality Management District Governing Board.
The board approved the full list of 26 emission reduction projects and ordered a three-year review to evaluate the impact of these projects. The projects are funded by mitigation fees from the Sentinel Energy Project under construction near Desert Hot Springs.
“We will see 100 percent of the Sentinel mitigation fees stay in the valley and fund innovative projects that will generate substantial benefits to our environment and economy for years to come,” said Supervisor John J. Benoit. “I thank my fellow board members for their understanding and support of our valley, AQMD staff for their unprecedented outreach to the community and citizens for their impressive input and engagement.”
In 2009, while serving in the state Senate, Benoit coauthored legislation that authorized air quality credits to be transferred to allow construction to proceed on the Sentinel plant, paving the way for $53 million in mitigation fees to be deposited into an AQMD mitigation fund by the plant’s builder, Competitive Power Ventures.
Under the legislation, at least 30 percent must be spent on emission reduction projects within a six-mile radius from the plant, at least 30 percent in environmental justice areas and the remaining 40 percent could be spent on emission reduction projects anywhere in the AQMD multi-county coverage area.
Noting only $16 million would be guaranteed to projects in the Coachella Valley, Supervisor Benoit convinced his AQMD colleagues that all the funding should be allocated exclusively within the Coachella Valley. With the unanimous vote of the AQMD board in February 2012, 100 percent of the funding was directed to projects exclusively in the Coachella Valley.
Following the release of the request for proposals, AQMD staff did an unprecedented amount of outreach to publicize the process and provide technical assistance to community groups to prepare proposals that met the requirements of the fund. The district doubled the period to submit proposals.
Over the summer, the district thoroughly reviewed 75 submitted proposals for funding. Supervisor Benoit worked with the AQMD to schedule the first AQMD Administrative Committee hearing to be held in the Coachella Valley to review the project list. The project list was shaped and revised by public input from that meeting and another in Diamond Bar.
The full list of approved projects is available at the “January 4, 2013 Final Board Letter” via http://www.aqmd.gov/