Busy Times for California Leaders and Environmentalists

We’ve had an exciting start to 2019 in California with a new Governor, Gavin Newsom, taking the oath of office, along with a new class of state legislators, many of whom ran and won on their environmental platforms. Legislative leaders, with pro-environment majorities in both the State Assembly and Senate are moving ahead with ambitious progressive agendas.    

Governor Newsom transitioned seamlessly to the state’s top job. Right after his inauguration, teachers went on strike in Los Angeles and the nation’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, filed for bankruptcy. The teachers’ strike is over, but the bankruptcy proceedings are just getting started. Meanwhile, Newsom is preparing for another wildfire season, negotiating with the legislature over the state budget, fighting the Trump administration’s senseless attacks on California, and he recently took his first international trip as Governor to visit El Salvador to strengthen bilateral relationships and offer an alternative humane, approach to immigration.

Newsom also made two major environmental announcements on important issues that NRDC has been advocating for years. First, he canceled the disastrous Water Fix, twin Delta tunnels project and announced a plan for one Delta tunnel coupled with climate resilient regional water supply strategies to help California use water more efficiently and decrease reliance on the vulnerable San Francisco Bay Delta ecosystem. NRDC welcomes the announcement. It embodies many of the elements NRDC’s water team helped develop with our coalition partners in 2013.  

Next, Newsom’s Secretary of CalEPA Jared Blumenfeld took a major step forward to protect children, farmworkers, and families by initiating the process to ban the brain-harming pesticide, chlorpyrifos, and proposing $5.7 million in new funding to support a transition to safer alternatives. NRDC’s public health team has been working to eliminate chlorpyrifos from fields and communities across the country for nearly two decades. State Senator Maria Elena Durazo is similarly authoring SB 458 to ban chlorpyrifos—highlighting the growing momentum to protect Californians from this toxic pesticide.

Sacramento action is intensifying around the thousand or so bills moving toward the Governor’s desk. NRDC and our coalition partners are working to pass legislation on a broad range of topics including efforts to: shore up California’s environmental and worker protections amid the Trump administration’s ongoing threats, reduce toxic chemicals and pollution, increase local water reliability, provide greater mobility options, increase the number of electric vehicles on our roads, and protect California’s people and natural resources from the threats of oil drilling.

Below are bills we’ve identified as priorities for the Legislature to pass or reject, and the Governor to act on this year.

NRDC supports the following bills:

Protect CA from Federal Rollbacks

  • SB 1 (Atkins, Portantino and Stern) – Trump Insurance – Maintains clean air, clean water, endangered species protection, and workplace safety standards in case those measures are weakened at the federal level.
  • SB 307 (Roth) – Protect California Groundwater Resources in the Mojave Desert – Enhances protections to California’s deserts by hitting the pause button on Cadiz Inc.’s water extraction project to ensure that the underlying science is reviewed and reconciled.
  • AB 454 (Kalra) – Migratory Bird Treaty Act – Ensures that existing California migratory bird protections will remain in effect, regardless of any reinterpretations or rollbacks made by the U.S Department of the Interior under the current federal administration.  

Climate, Clean Energy, and Transportation

  • AB 383 (Mayes and Friedman) – Clean Energy Financing - creates a centralized Clean Energy Financing office within the Office of the Treasurer to provide strategic leadership for coordinated public and private investment to help advance California’s climate targets.
  • SB 44 (Skinner) – Ditching Dirty Diesel – Requires a comprehensive strategy to phase out the use of polluting, diesel-fueled medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses in California and to speed up the transition to cleaner vehicle technologies and fuels.
  • SB 50 (Wiener) – The More HOMES Act – Promotes more housing near job centers and public transportation by addressing local zoning issues, while protecting against displacement. By allowing people to live closer to where they work, SB 50 is one strategy to reduce unnecessary driving and carbon pollution. 
  • SB 210 (Leyva) – Smog Checks for Trucks – Directs the California Air Resources Board to work in coordination with multiple state agencies to develop and implement a Heavy-Duty Inspection and Maintenance Program for high-polluting diesel trucks.
  • SB 526 (Allen) – Healthy Communities – Improves data and state planning processes to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation and land use sectors. The bill strengthens regional GHG reduction reporting and targets pursuant to SB 375 (Steinberg, 2008) and SB 150 (Allen, 2017).

Waste and Plastic Pollution 

  • SB 54 (Allen) and AB 1080 (Gonzalez) – Plastic Pollution – Establishes a comprehensive framework to address the pollution and waste crisis, reduce the amount of single-use waste generated in California, and require the remaining packaging and products to be truly recyclable or compostable.
  • AB 792 (Ting) – Minimum Recycled Content for Plastic Beverage Containers – Sets a minimum recycled content standard for plastic bottles in California in response to the growing concern over plastic pollution in our oceans and landfills and the lack of markets for recycled plastic.
  • AB 1162 (Kalra) – Reduce Plastics in Hotels – Reduces plastic waste by prohibiting hotels and other lodging facilities from providing guests with single-use small plastic bottles containing personal care products, such as shampoo and conditioner.

Oil and Gas Production and Transport

  • AB 345 (Muratsuchi) – Health Buffer Zones – Mandates a 2,500-foot health and safety buffer zone between new oil and gas wells and sensitive land uses, such as schools, day care centers, residential homes, and hospitals.
  • AB 936 (R. Rivas) – Nonfloating Oil Clean-Up and Notification – Requires separate clean-up plans and notification for transport of nonfloating oils, including tar sands crude, and other heavy fuel oils that pose a serious threat to our waters, beaches, fisheries and wildlife.
  • AB 1328 (Holden) – Oil and Gas Well Testing – Provides transparency by ensuring that information collected during air testing at certain idle, abandoned and hazardous oil and gas wells is submitted to the relevant agencies and made public.
  • AB 1440 (Levine) – Updating Oil and Gas Statutes – Updates the laws governing the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) and State Lands Commission (SLC) to clarify that their central mission is to ensure health, safety and environmental protection.

Coastal Access

  • AB 1300 (Kamlager-Dove) – Explore the Coast Program – Codifies the “Explore the Coast Program” at the Coastal Conservancy, which provides grants to nonprofits for programs that bring people to the ocean and expands opportunities for all Californians to access and explore the state’s coastal resources.
  • AB 1680 (Limon) – Hollister Ranch Beach Access – Ensures equitable access to the coastline at Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County.

Toxics and Healthy Food

  • SB 392 (Allen) – Safer Consumer Products Program Update – Improves the effectiveness of the state’s “green chemistry program” by addressing impediments that have hindered its ability to reduce the hazards of toxic chemicals in consumer products.
  • SB 458 (Durazo) – Protecting Children from Toxic Pesticides – Protects children, farmworkers, and the environment by banning the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos.
  • SB 574 (Leyva) – Toxic Fragrance and Flavor Chemicals Right-to-Know Act of 2019 – Requires manufacturers to fully disclose hazardous ingredients in fragrances and flavors used in cosmetics and personal care products sold in California.
  • AB 958 (Aguiar-Curry) – California Organic-to-School Pilot Program – Helps schools purchase more California-grown organic food, expands market opportunities for organic farmers, and helps advance the state’s climate goals by investing in agriculture practices that prioritize soil health and reduce pesticide exposure.

Water

  • SB 332 (Hertzberg and Wiener) – Local Water Reliability Act – Reduces the wasteful discharge of treated wastewater into the ocean by increasing beneficial reuse, water conservation, and efficiency.
  • AB 60 (Friedman) – Water Meter Accuracy – Requires the California Energy Commission to set standards for the accuracy of new urban water meters to better track and reduce water use, identify leaks, and reduce vulnerability to future droughts.
     
  • AB 1415 (Friedman) – Non-Compliance with Reporting Requirements – Authorizes the California Department of Water Resources to impose and collect civil penalties from local public entities that fail to submit reports and plans that are required under existing laws.

NRDC opposes the following bills:

  • SB 386 (Caballero) – Weakening California’s Landmark Clean Energy Law - Undercuts decades of clean energy and climate leadership by allowing electricity from certain existing large hydroelectric facilities to count towards California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard and providing unnecessary and special treatment to two utilities.
  • SB 659 (Borgeas) Authorizes a court to award attorney’s fees to defendants in CEQA cases if the court finds that the petitioner was frivolous or caused unnecessary delay. 
  • SB 621 (Glazer) - Expedites judicial review for certain housing projects being challenged under CEQA and puts limits on injunctive relief.
  • AB 178 (Dahle) – Weakening Solar Standards - Exempts certain homes being rebuilt after wildfires from meeting rooftop solar requirements that are designed to lower customer utility bills, reduce energy use from the grid, and increase resilience when power lines are down or de-energized.

You can read the text of any of these bills here.

About the Authors

Victoria Rome

California Legislative Director

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