First the Bad News… California Is Failing BIG on the Bold Climate Legislation We Need
Despite some small wins on climate legislation, California is far from passing the bold climate legislation needed to stay below 1.5⁰ C by 2030 and protect the health of citizens. The current unprecedented drought in western states and a fire season that is expected to be the worst one yet clearly indicate the need for bold leadership and long term planning on climate. Yet, our legislature – even with democratic majorities in both houses – continues to be hampered by short-term political considerations and the wrong-headed influences of corporate and union lobbyists. It has become too easy for corporate interests to halt legislative progress that is in the best interest of all Californians. Unfortunately, this is true on both sides of the aisle.
During the 2021 legislative session, we’ve seen both ambitious and minor bills fail. Flagship bill SB 467 would have protected frontline communities from dangerous oil & gas wells, but failed to make it out of committee. SB 54 was made a 2-year bill, yet again postponing action on reducing polluting single use plastics. These are just two of 20+ key climate bills that have failed to gain the support needed to make it out of their House of Origin, on topics spanning clean energy standards, EV adoption, corporate climate accountability, and permitting and benefits related to rooftop solar.
AB 1139–which we opposed for its negative impact on rooftop solar–became a 2-year bill and did not make it out of committee in its House of Origin. We initially considered this a win. However, despite the ongoing debate in the legislature, the state Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has since voted unanimously to cut the benefits of rooftop solar, effectively acting against consumer solar and prioritizing large power plants favored by PG&E and other investor-owned utilities.
In the words of John Lewis… “if not now then when; if not us, then who?” Your action is as critical as ever for urging our representatives to make the climate progress we need for a livable planet.
Now Some Good News: A Number of Key Climate Bills Are Still Alive!
In fact, let’s call it Great News! A number of California climate bills we endorsed have passed the first phase (phase 1 of 3) toward becoming laws! They address everything from encouraging carbon sequestration to phasing out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.
Mass Transit on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
AB 455 would give some preference to buses and high occupancy vehicles (HOVs) on the Bay Bridge, one of the nation’s busiest bridges. The bill directs regional and state transit authorities to consider creating bus- and HOV-only lanes on the bridge, as well as toll discounts and other strategies to speed up bus and HOV transit, encouraging more people to use those types of transportation.
The bill’s intent is for transit authorities to make it possible for buses to average 45 mph on the bridge 90 percent of the time. To help stem climate change, we have to get more people out of their cars and onto buses. If you’ve ever driven in a car on the Bay Bridge, you know that averaging 45 mph most of the time could make a bus a very appealing option for travel!
In recent newsletters, we’ve been updating you on AB 525–which would require the state to develop utility-scale offshore wind energy. The bill sailed through the Assembly in June and has moved to committee in the Senate. The Biden Administration has signaled its support for helping to identify offshore wind energy sites along the California coast, which is crucial because any state wind projects would be built in federal waters.
AB 525 requires the California Energy Commission (CEC) to establish a strategic plan and set targets for offshore wind by 2030 and 2045, to supplement the state’s supply of renewable energy. Offshore wind energy is not only good for its role in mitigating climate change, but also for creating new green jobs in California.
Idle Oil and Gas Wells
California has some 35,000 idle oil and gas wells, according to the state Department of Conservation. These wells can leak, posing serious environmental health and public safety threats, including air and groundwater pollution. Methane leaks from the wells are a fire and explosion risk, and methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Since many of the state’s oil and gas wells are located in low-income neighborhoods near people of color, they present an environmental justice issue as well.
The state has already spent millions of dollars remediating wells abandoned by operators who become insolvent or simply desert wells that no longer serve their purpose.
For all these reasons, we support SB 47 and AB 896, both of which would enhance the ability of the California Geologic Energy Management division (CalGEM) to put the clamps on idle oil and gas wells across the state. AB 896 would authorize CalGEM to impose a lien on an idle well if deemed unsafe or if the state has incurred costs for remediating it. SB 47 would raise a spending cap on CalGEM for plugging abandoned oil and gas wells and taking other remediation steps to protect people and the environment.
Leaf Blowers, Lawn Mowers and Other Small Off-Road Engines
If the noise alone from leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other small off-road engines doesn’t concern you, maybe their environmental impact will. These gas-powered menaces spew more air pollutants and particulate matter than large cars and light trucks. Their emissions contribute to ozone pollution and pose potential health risks to all of us.
AB 1346 would require the California Air Resources board (CARB) to adopt regulations that would phase out and ultimately ban the sale of new gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers and the like. Can’t you just hear the glorious silence and breathe the cleaner air? Read more about AB 1346 on our blog.
SB 596 is groundbreaking legislation that would eliminate carbon pollution from the state’s cement plants. Why address something as unsexy as cement? Because cement–part of the mix that creates concrete–is the state’s second largest source of industrial pollution after oil and gas production!
SB 596 directs the CARB to develop a comprehensive strategy to achieve carbon neutrality in the cement industry by 2045 and to establish interim targets for reducing cement’s greenhouse gas intensity.
With the bill now moving to the state Assembly, you can help by signing this petition urging your assembly member to support SB 596!
Mother Nature does a pretty good job at keeping carbon out of the atmosphere–it’s called carbon sequestration, which helps limit global warming. Trees and forests, plants, soil, wetlands and range land–so called “natural and working lands”–all can secure carbon, assuming we humans preserve and protect them.
AB 284 would put California on a long-term path of expanding support for carbon sequestration projects on natural and working lands, by identifying 2045 climate goals for the state’s Natural Working Lands to sequester and reduce GHG.
Some additional priority bills that have passed their House of Origin:
- AB 117 – Establishes e-bike rebates
- AB 1401 – Eliminates parking minimums near public transit
- SB 99 – Provides support for community microgrids
- SB 372 – Establishes a purchase assistance program for electric trucks
- SB 500 – Requires that all Autonomous Vehicles be Zero Emission Vehicles
Onward to phase 2 for these bills!
Need a refresher on the phases of a bill becoming a Law?
- Phase 1: Bill passes House of Origin (CA Senate or Assembly)
- Phase 2: Bill must pass other legislative chamber (CA Senate or Assembly)
- Phase 3: Signed into law by Governor
See our Bill Status Document for a detailed update on all the bills we’re working on.
There Is Also Some Good News on the State Budget… More Funding for Clean Transit and Climate Resilience Projects
The Governor’s May budget restored some funding for climate policies. Additionally, the Legislature chimed in with $2.7 billion for Zero Emission Vehicles in this year’s budget, and $3.9 billion over three years, for multi-year investments in drayage trucks, transit buses, and school buses, as well as $500 million for ZEV infrastructure and $525 million for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. However, negotiations on funding climate programs in the budget will continue into August.
Here’s What You Can Do to Urge the Bold Climate Action We Need
Tell CalGEM You Want ALL Dangerous Oil Drilling Banned in California
In April, Governor Gavin Newsom directed CalGEM to release a draft rule to effectively end fracking of oil and gas in the state by 2024. That’s an important first step, but fracking comprises only a small percentage of the many dangerous drilling techniques used in the state, often near frontline communities whose health is most at risk from oil and gas extraction.
Bottom line, CalGEM’s draft rule to ban fracking falls short of what’s needed to not only protect California’s most vulnerable communities, but address climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels like oil and gas. The state needs to ban ALL dangerous drilling techniques and create a 2,500-foot setback from sensitive areas like homes and schools.
CalGEM has the power to ban all dangerous drilling today! Between now and July 4, CalGEM has a public comment period on its draft rule and needs to hear from YOU. Sign this petition to demand CalGEM ban all dangerous drilling techniques and release its rule now calling for no less than a 2,500-foot setback (we can’t afford to wait until 2024).
Urge Your Assemblymember to Support SB 596
With the bill now moving to the state Assembly, you can help by signing this petition urging your Assemblymember to support SB 596!
Show Your Ongoing Support for Remaining Priority Bills
As the legislative session continues, we will share actions you can take to urge your representatives to support remaining climate bills. Keep an eye out for these, take swift action, and urge others to do so too.
Our Volunteers Have Been Busy Meeting with Key Representatives
Thanks to our amazing volunteers for helping drive action around calls, letters and meetings with our Legislators before the Floor votes in their House of Origin. Our volunteers met with co-author Assemblymember Bill Quirk on AB 1139, which we opposed and which became a 2-year bill, with Assemblymembers Jim Woods and Mark Levine, and with Senator Mike McGuire. Future meetings are planned with Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Jim Woods, Mark Levine, Phil Ting, Buffy Wicks, Tim Grayson and Bill Dodd, and with Senator Steven Glazer to educate on our priority bills. Volunteers are also meeting with our members of Congress members to work with them on how Federal bills can support California’s climate justice policies.
Passionate about these issues? Join our team of awesome volunteers by filling out this form.
Thank you for all you are doing for people and the planet!
In Solidarity and Action,
Dean, Kelly and Lyla for the Legislative Team
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