As California’s Legislative Session Ends, Key Environmental Protections Begin

Source: Flickr/jjkbach

Source: Flickr/jjkbach

Anna Doty contributed to this post.

A quick look back at California’s 2014 legislative agenda, which closed in the early morning hours of August 30th, shows it certainly was one for the record books. California took up major efforts to cut climate pollution and portion out billions in new investments, modernize the electric grid, and take on other not-so-small issues such as phasing out plastic bags. This activity happened while California led the nation in a remarkable economic rebound, continued to deal with an epic drought, and combatted the worst air quality in the U.S.

Among the many environmental issues in the spotlight this year, climate change, air quality, clean energy, water, and waste lead the pack.

Implementing a climate protection framework worthy of acclaim

On climate, lawmakers turned a corner by affirming the state’s commitment to AB 32 and green-lighting a new era of pollution reducing investments from the state’s world-class cap-and-trade regulation. Keeping transportation fuels within cap and trade starting January 2015 remained a main focus, with lawmakers facing and rebuffing numerous attempts by regulated industries and other legislators to undermine and delay the state’s landmark program. Throughout the session, lawmakers remained strong, demonstrating a commitment to the state’s growing clean economy and the need to capture the huge savings in health and fuel costs AB 32 will provide.

Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg himself resolutely stated the significance AB 32 to maintaining a vibrant California when he said:

“Business as usual is unsustainable. Inaction is not an option. If we are serious about reducing fuel costs and righting the public health and economic wrongs facing our constituents, we must wean ourselves off fossil fuels and invest in cleaner transportation alternatives and in low income communities as we did in this year’s budget.”

As elected officials dealt with the climate program design, they also cemented a new wave of low-carbon investments within the state’s annual budget. For the first time, California will reinvest cap-and-trade funds – upwards of $830 million from the state’s biggest polluters – in communities across the state. These investments will go toward clean transportation, low-carbon energy, transit-oriented development, and delivering green jobs and improved quality of life to California’s most disadvantaged communities.

An array of clean energy and clean air protections to help Californians breathe easier

In a strong showing for clean air and clean energy, the legislature unanimously passed SB 1414 by Lois Wolk of Davis, an effort to make sure utilities do everything they can to reduce power demand before building new power plants. Importantly, SB 1414 demonstrates an unwavering affirmation of the need to deploy clean resources on the state’s electric grid.  Innovative demand response programs (the programs at the heart of the bill) will play a key role in ensuring California can cleanly and cost-effectively meet growing energy demand for years to come. Other important bills, like AB 1883 by Nancy Skinner of Berkeley and AB 2188 by Al Muratsuchi of Torrance, also passed through the legislature – providing important new opportunities for energy efficiency and solar energy by streamlining California’s PACE and permitting programs.

In a victory to clean up the state’s natural gas energy infrastructure, the legislature passed SB 1371 by Mark Leno of San Francisco – directing the Public Utilities Commission to make sure utilities use best industry practices to quickly detect and repair methane leaks in the state’s natural gas transmission and distribution system. Not only do improved leak monitoring practices save money and energy, they also help combat climate change since methane (the main ingredient in natural gas) is a potent greenhouse gas. Alongside SB 1371, the legislature passed SB 605 by Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, to protect public health by ensuring California develops a comprehensive strategy to address harmful short-lived climate pollutants, including methane and black carbon.

The legislative session also further catalyzed California’s clean transportation future with the passage of SB 1275 by Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles, and SB 1204 by Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens. Together, these bills will put one million clean cars, trucks, and buses on the roads in the next ten years in communities most impacted by pollution. As a package, these bills will improve the state’s transportation infrastructure and increase access to zero-emission vehicles for all Californians.

California’s leaders realized we don’t have a drop to lose in this drought

California entered a third year of an epic drought, with no end in sight and over 95 percent of the state now considered in severe drought. In response, lawmakers put in place much needed management, new protection, and critical investments to preserve and protect our state’s precious and dwindling water resources.

Legislators with diverse interests from across the state came together and passed a new water bond with near unanimous support that will appear on the ballot this November. This deal breaks a gridlock in California which has lasted over five years and will finally bring a comprehensive policy package to voters that focuses on better management of water resources. If approved by voters in November, the bond will invest $7.5 billion in 21st century solutions to ensure California’s water security, including substantially more funding for infrastructure and programs related to improved drinking water, groundwater management, water recycling, water conservation, and ecosystem restoration.

In addition to the bond and an emergency drought relief package earlier in the year, the legislature also passed a framework package for sustainable groundwater management which takes an historic first step to allow California to join the rest of the West in formally managing groundwater and ensuring it remains an available resource for future generations.

The legislature didn’t waste the chance to finally pass a plastic bag ban

The “bag ban” had begun to feel like Groundhog Day issue, appearing again and again in the legislature without success, but this year the state’s elected leaders finally passed one of the most important ocean protection and waste prevention issues in recent memory with SB 270, by Alex Padilla of Van Nuys. Not only will millions of pounds of plastic waste be prevented from polluting our state’s fragile and economically important coasts, cities across the state will save millions in cleanup costs.

California’s legislature built a strong foundation, now it’s up to Governor Brown to cement it

This session has shown that environmental protection goes hand in hand with economic opportunity and safeguarding public health. By passing balanced measures to save precious resources like water, and promote cleaner alternatives- whether transportation, power supply, or bags – lawmakers clearly agree with this premise. Now it’s up to Governor Brown to cement these important environmental policies and continue California’s leadership towards a promising future.

Although we’ve covered most of the highlights in this commendable legislative session, here’s quick full rundown of the key environment related proposals voted on this year and how they fared:

BillAuthorSubjectStatus
SB 103 & SB 104BudgetEmergency Drought Relief: Water efficiency and conservationPassed, signed by Governor
SB 193Bill Monning—San Luis ObispoReporting hazardous chemicals in the workplacePassed, signed by Governor
SB 270Alex Padilla—Van NuysState-wide phase out of single-use plastic bagsPassed, signed by Governor
SB 605Ricardo Lara—Long BeachReducing short-lived climate pollutantsPassed, signed by Governor
SB 812Kevin de León—Los AngelesIncreased oversight for hazardous waste managementPassed, vetoed by Governor
SB 852Budget2014-2015 AB 32 Investment Plan: Low carbon transit, clean energy, and sustainable communitiesPassed, signed by Governor
SB 968Jerry Hill—San MateoRestoring public access to Martin’s beachPassed, signed by Governor
SB 985Fran Pavley—Los AngelesStormwater reuse and recycling planningPassed, signed by Governor
SB 1019Mark Leno—San FranciscoRight to know: Flame retardants labelingPassed, signed by Governor
SB 1079Andy Vidak-HanfordDelay of AB 32 ImplementationWidely opposed by stakeholders and legislators immediately after introduction; did not move forward.
SB 1096Hannah-Beth Jackson—Santa BarbaraBanning oil and gas extraction in coastal sanctuariesFailed
SB 1121Kevin de León—Los AngelesCalifornia Green Bank: Financing for clean technologiesOn hold, pending action from Administration
SB 1168Fran Pavley—Los AngelesSustainable groundwater management planPassed, signed by Governor
SB 1204Ricardo Lara—Long BeachInvesting in clean trucks and buses in low-income communitiesPassed, signed by Governor
SB 1275Kevin de León—Los AngelesCharge Ahead: Improving access to electric vehicles for low-income CaliforniansPassed, signed by Governor
SB 1281Fran Pavley—Los AngelesReporting water use from oil and gas extractionPassed, signed by Governor
SB 1371Mark Leno—San FranciscoCutting methane pollution from natural gas leaksPassed, signed by Governor
SB 1414Lois Wolk—VacavilleCleaning up electricity generation through demand responsePassed, signed by Governor
AB 380Roger Dickinson—SacramentoCrude by Rail: Emergency response and public safetyPassed, signed by Governor
AB 1471Anthony Rendon—South GateWater Bond: Investments in water conservation, recycling, and infrastructurePassed, signed by Governor. Will appear on November Ballot as Proposition 1
AB 1699Richard Bloom—Santa MonicaStatewide ban on plastic microbeads in consumer productsFailed
AB 1739Roger Dickinson—SacramentoSustainable groundwater management planPassed, signed by Governor
AB 1883Nancy Skinner—BerkeleyIncreasing access to clean energy financingPassed,signed by Governor
AB 2188Al Muratsuchi—TorranceIncreasing access to distributed solar generationPassed, signed by Governor
AB 69Henry Perea—FresnoDelay of AB 32 ImplementationWidely opposed by stakeholders and legislators immediately after introduction; did not move forward.

Updated October 6, 2014

This entry was posted in Auction revenue, Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Politics, Transportation. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.