SB 1 authored by Senate pro Tem Toni Atkins would ensure that California’s own environmental and public health laws provide a backstop in the face of Trump administration federal environmental rollbacks. Newspapers from the Los Angeles Times to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat support SB 1.
As the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board said last month, this is a chance for our state to stop the Trump administration’s serious weakening of the federal Endangered Species Act. They went on to say that we shouldn’t be surprised given that this White House dumped the Paris climate pact, welcomes coal burning power plants, and muzzles federal scientists from speaking out.
The Trump administration keeps up a relentless attack on environmental protections that California and other states have come to rely on for decades. California now has an opportunity to resist those changes with SB 1. Newspapers across the state get it and are editorializing in favor of the bill’s passage.
Paper editorial boards cite in particular, Trump appointee Department of Interior Secretary Bernhardt, whose former clients include Westlands Water District, which is hugely dependent on water pumped through the Delta and his most recent move to eviscerate the federal Endangered Species Act. The San Francisco Chronicle cited SB 1 as a “more sweeping and possibly instantaneous response” to the proposed gutting of the Endangered Species Act.
Water issues, not surprisingly, are driving what opposition there is to SB 1. As explained by an editorial published on Aug. 27 in the San Jose Mercury News, SB 1 helps California protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
“A critical part of the SB 1 legislation is forcing the federal Central Valley Project to comply with the same set of rules as the State Water Project,” the editorial board said. “Without SB 1, Central Valley Project operators could send additional water south to farmers, leaving the State Water Project to shoulder the responsibilities of maintaining Delta water flows. That could in turn leave less fresh water for Bay Area users.”
In April, the Los Angeles Times supported SB 1, calling it “Trump insurance” and noting that, despite their best efforts, state “bureaucracies can’t possibly move fast enough to defend against Trump efforts to eliminate species protections in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta or elsewhere in California.” SB 1 would give state agencies the ability to ensure the protections that existed before Trump took office continue.
The Times reiterated its support for SB 1 on Aug. 21 in light of the attack on the Endangered Species Act, calling the bill a “brilliant solution” to mitigating the damage from Trump’s anti-environmental agenda.
In addition to newspaper editorials, many articles have been written about why SB 1 is needed now more than ever. An Aug. 21 article in the Sacramento Bee discussed how a report by federal scientists about the impact of the diversion of water from the Delta to San Joaquin Valley farmers was quashed because the scientists said the diversion would further endanger California salmon.
The subsequently whitewashed report “could put more pressure on California lawmakers” to pass SB 1, the article said.
SB 1 has now passed the Senate and 4 committees in the Assembly. It is waiting action on the Assembly floor before September 13th, the end of this year’s legislative session.