Making Polluters Pay


People of color and low-income communities are on the frontlines of poverty and pollution in America. Eighty percent of Latinos live in areas that do not meet Environmental Protection Agency standards for air quality. Sixty-eight percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal plant. Facts like these have led to higher rates of asthma, cancer, and pollution-related disease in these communities. Meanwhile, air pollution is contributing to devastating climate change and climate disaster. 

The cost of carbon pollution is not free.

Taxpayers at large, and frontline families in particular, are shouldering the cost of treating the many side effects of dirty air pollution. We are paying in health care costs. We are paying the costs to clean up and rebuild communities when disaster strikes. People are paying more for their groceries because of drought's effects on agriculture. First responders are facing more severe fires that put them at risk every day. Abandoned industrial sites and other polluted areas drop people's property values -- and all of these things take a real economic toll on struggling families and entire communities. 

But we can reverse this trend. It's time to hold polluters accountable. 

By making polluters pay, we can recover value to reinvest in programs that benefit communities. Polluter pay funds can be used to uplift neighborhoods—with good jobs, clean transportation choices, energy savings, affordable housing, and healthier air. In fact, that's exactly what California did when it passed Senate Bill 535 (de Leon) in 2012. SB 535 dedicated 35 percent of California's carbon pricing funds to the most disadvantaged communities. And this grew the green economy in communities that needed it most. For impact stories of real families whose lives have been changed for the better by this, visit


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VIDEO: Free solar panels help low-income communities in California save money and fight climate change

Vien Truong, Director of Green For All, describes how one program in California is helping those most affected by climate change: low-income communities. A portion of California’s cap-and-trade funding paid by polluters goes directly to help low-income communities on the frontlines of environmental issues. These programs can help people save money and get access to clean technologies and programs often only accessible to wealthier communities.

VIDEO: Creating the world we want

Vien Truong speaks at Bioneers 2016 to share how we can create the world we want -- through policies like California Senate Bill 535 that put frontline communities first and through investments that uplift neighborhoods.

VIDEO: How making polluters pay can help combat environmental racism

They're poisoning our air and our water, and they think it's okay. It's not okay. Vien Truong appears in NowThis to share how policy can combat environmental racism in places like Flint, MI. 



LEGISLATOR TOOLKIT: A Climate Toolkit for Legislators by SiX Action, provides guidance on how to states can implement a price on carbon that puts the frontlines first.


KEY PRINCIPLES: A Primer on the Key Elements of Effective Carbon Pricing by Green For All. (2 pager)


HARVARD LAW REVIEW ARTICLE: Addressing Poverty and Pollution through California’s SB 535 Polluters Pay Fund by Vien Truong, one of the policy architects and innovators behind SB 535.


COMMUNITY STORIES: Stories of real families whose lives have been improved by CA SB 535 available via Guest Blog article on the secret behind creating the largest fund in history


CASE STUDIES REPORT: Climate Investments Case Studies Report by The Greenlining Institute outline 10 community case studies on how SB 535 funds were spent and who benefits. 


MORE TOOLKITS - JOBS, JUSTICE, & JUST TRANSITION: Clean Power For All Toolkits. A series of toolkits providing policy guidance and case studies on a range of important issues.


CLIMATE GAP REPORT: Inequalities in how climate change hurts Americans and how to close the gap. Authored by Rachel Morello-Frosch, PhD, MPH; Manuel Pastor, PhD; James Sadd, PhD; and Seth Shonkoff, MPH.


CAUTIONARY TALE: Green For All’s remarks on the defeat of Washington Initiative 732 is useful insight into the difference between a carbon tax that puts frontlines first and one that leaves them behind.


Contact Us

For more information, contact Green For All deputy director Michelle Romero at [email protected].