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A Mixed Finish for 2008 Environmental Bills in California, Says NRDC
Governor splits the baby: signs global warming law, but vetoes ports pollution bill
SAN FRANCISCO (October 10, 2008) – With the stroke of his pen, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made 2008 another banner year for global warming legislation in California. However, he vetoed a badly needed bill to reduce ports pollution, which means that some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens will continue to breathe unhealthy air, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The good news: the governor signed SB 375 by incoming Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. This law, cosponsored by NRDC and the California League of Conservation Voters, provides incentives for cities to plan and build more efficient neighborhoods where people do not need to drive all the time, resulting in less global warming pollution. Read NRDC’s press release on SB 375 at www.nrdc.org/media/2008/081001.asp.
The bad news: Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 974 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal. This bill would have helped clean up the staggering amounts of air pollution produced by the ports of Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles by establishing a fee of $30 per shipping container with fee revenues used equally to reduce air pollution and improve infrastructure in port corridors. Read NRDC’s press release on SB 974 at www.nrdc.org/media/2008/081001a.asp.
This NRDC backgrounder summarizes this year’s other California legislative highlights:
Air Quality/Energy/Climate/Green Jobs
SIGNED: AB 2522 (Arambula) - Authorizes the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District to increase vehicle registration fees from $6 to up to $30 for incentive-based programs to achieve state and federal air quality standards, and requires at least $10 million of the fee revenues to be used to mitigate air pollution in disproportionately impacted communities in the San Joaquin Valley.
VETOED: AB 2939 (Hancock) - Would have authorized cities and counties to adopt green building standards that exceed those adopted by the state.
SIGNED: AB 2855 (Hancock) - Establishes green technology and goods movement as two new career tracks for the California Partnership Academies, schools within schools that serve at-risk students and focus on particular career categories.
SIGNED: SB X2 1 (Perata, Steinberg and Machado) - Allocates existing water bond funds to California water quality and supply programs, including delta ecosystem improvements.
SIGNED: AB 31 (de Leon) - ForUrban Parks, allocates $400 million from Prop 84 (which voters passed in 2006) to address the need for neighborhood parks in the most park-poor communities throughout California.
SIGNED: AB 2537 (Furutani) - Extends existing exemption from prevailing wage requirements for volunteers and members of the California Conservation Corps. The use of volunteers is critical for community clean-up and restoration projects given the limited supply of funding for these projects.
Oil Spill Prevention/Response
VETOED: AB 2547 (Leno) - Would have improved oil spill response by requiring permanent availability of dedicated response personnel and equipment in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego. Encourages better oil spill clean-up technology and provides a minimum containment response.
SIGNED: AB 2911 (Wolk) - Specifies the Department of Fish and Game's Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) program as the lead in preventing, responding to, and mitigating inland oil spills, in accordance with the recommendation of the Department of Finance. The bill also implements one of the Coast Guard’s recommendations from the Cosco Busan spill by making the Oiled Wildlife Care Network responsible for search and rescue of oiled wildlife and by improving the number and training of volunteers used in rescuing oiled wildlife.
SIGNED: AB 2935 (Huffman) - Requires prioritization and protection of environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas in oil spill response planning. The bill also establishes clear protocols for closing potentially contaminated fisheries after a spill and authorizes a training program for private boaters to assist with containment and clean-up efforts.
SIGNED: AB 1879 (Feuer) - Enacts chemical policy reform by requiring the Department of Toxic Substances Control to adopt regulations to identify and prioritize chemicals of concern in consumer products, evaluate the hazard traits of chemicals and their alternatives, and establish a range of regulatory actions to protect public health and the environment.
SIGNED: SB 509 (Simitian) - Requires the Department of Toxic Substances Control to establish a web-based Toxics Information Clearinghouse containing data on the hazard traits of chemicals and, with the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, to identify human health and environmental hazards posed by chemicals used in consumer products, based on available data.
VETOED: SB 775 (Ridley-Thomas) - Would have increased screening for and tracking of childhood lead poisoning. Also requires that information about lead be given to pregnant women.
VETOED: SB 1313 (Corbett) - Would have prohibited perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) from being used in food packaging. Studies show these chemicals – which migrate into food directly from packaging, especially when heated – are likely carcinogens and can cause developmental problems in children. PFOS and PFOA have been found in the blood of more than 98 percent of Americans, and recent studies found these chemicals in 100 percent of 293 newborns surveyed. PFOA and PFOS never break down, persisting in the environment indefinitely.
VETOED: SB 1113 (Migden) - Would have allowed a court, upon motion, to award attorney’s fees and costs, including expert witness fees, to a successful party in any action that has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest. In environmental protection litigation the special knowledge of biologists, doctors, engineers, and other experts is often essential to understanding the complex factual issues that violations of environmental laws raise. This bill ensures that the costs of such expert testimony can be recovered by successful public interest litigants, an important factor in whether suits are brought forward at all.
VETOED: AB 2447 (Jones) - Would have required a city or county to certify that a new subdivision has adequate fire protection before approving the project. Also requires projects to have fire safety features including defensible space, emergency water systems and at least two escape routes.
BAD BILL SIGNED INTO LAW
SIGNED: SB 1473 (Calderon) - This bill was signed into law over environmentalists’ objections. It grants exclusive permanent authority over the state green building standard to the Building Standards Commission, an agency with no record of environmental or health protection. No state agency currently has authority over the state green building standard, although several agencies, including the California Energy Commission, State Water Board, Air Resources Board and the Integrated Waste Management Board, are working on components of green building and their work must be part of the green building code-making process.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS - BILLS THAT SHOULD HAVE PASSED THE LEGISLATURE
AB 2175 (Laird/Feuer) - Would have accelerated water conservation efforts and decreased associated energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by requiring a 20 percent reduction in statewide urban per capita water use by 2020. The target would have been reduced for urban water agencies that have already implemented specific water conservation best management practices or that already have a low per capita water use. The bill also required agricultural water suppliers to adopt efficiency measures.
SB 411 (Simitian) - Would have required 33 Percent Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for state’s utilities to increase the amount of energy provided from renewable sources to 33 percent of their overall portfolio by 2020.
SB 1672 (Steinberg) - Would have authorized a $3 billion general obligation bond to help California meet its climate change targets by funding capital outlay projects at high schools, community colleges and other learning institutions that provide job training to support clean technology, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
SB 1020 (Padilla) - Would have established new State Waste Reduction and Recycling Targets of 60 percent by 2015 and 75 percent by 2020. Required all businesses in the state to arrange for recycling.
AB 7XX (Wolk) - Would have required state and local water agencies to consider and incorporate the global warming impacts on water supplies in all water planning documents. Also required the Department of Water Resources to analyze how global warming pollution and climate change would affect, and be affected by, new water facilities, such as reservoirs or water conveyance.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.