State Leaders on Sound Environmental Track at Summer Break

Final action required by September 13

California Governor Gavin Newsom and pro-environment majorities in both the State Assembly and Senate so far have put this year’s legislative session to good use, making progress in important areas that will improve public health and enhance the safety of residents across the state.

Newsom signed his first budget, a $214.8 billion plan that pays down pension liabilities, enhances the state’s ability to respond to wildfires, and beefs up the Rainy Day Fund.

State Senator Bill Monning, along with Assembly Members Eduardo Garcia and Richard Bloom led the effort to address a chronic lack of safe drinking water in many communities throughout the state. The legislature and governor dedicated $130 million a year, mostly from the state’s climate program to improve drinking water systems for the million people in California who currently lack consistent access to safe, affordable drinking water. While the state needs to strive for a long-term, sustainable funding source, this year’s action is an important step to clean up drinking water.

Governor Newsom also worked with the legislature to enact urgency legislation that provides recovery funding for wildfire victims while keeping utilities viable. The increase in wildfires, one of the many risks associated with climate change, presents complicated and difficult issues. NRDC supported the bill, AB 1054, because it includes, among other things, massive investments in fire risk mitigation, enhanced safety oversight for California’s grid, and carefully balanced cost-recovery provisions that will help maintain the fiscal integrity of California’s utilities to the benefit of customers and our clean energy goals. AB 1054 is a good starting point, but California’s leaders need to do more to address the risks of catastrophic wildfires.  

The legislature took bold action to protect the desert ecosystem by passing SB 307 by Senator Richard Roth. The bill requires the state to conduct independent environmental reviews of groundwater extraction projects, like the proposed Cadiz Inc. project in the iconic but ecologically fragile Mojave Desert, to ensure there are no adverse impacts to desert waters, lands, and wildlife. Governor Newsom signed SB 307 into law on July 31! 

When the legislature returns in August, it still will have hundreds of bills to consider as it sprints toward adjournment on September 13. Here are some of the key environmental bills to watch in the coming weeks:

Protecting California from Federal Rollbacks

SB 1 (Atkins, Portantino and Stern) Preserve California - Maintains clean air, clean water, and endangered species protections, and workplace safety standards, in case those measures are weakened at the federal level.

AB 454 (Kalra) Migratory Bird Treaty Act - Ensures that existing California migratory bird protections remain in effect even if the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is reinterpreted or rolled back by the current federal administration.

Clean Air, Clean Energy, Housing, and Transportation

SB 13 (Wieckowski) Housing - Eases requirements on the conversion or construction of structures into “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs) in order to increase the number of housing units in California.

SB 44 (Skinner) Ditching dirty diesel - Requires a comprehensive strategy to reduce pollution from diesel-fueled medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses and speeds the transition to cleaner vehicles and fuels.

SB 210 (Leyva) Smog check for trucks - Directs the California Air Resources Board to develop and implement an inspection and maintenance program for diesel trucks.

SB 330 (Skinner) Housing Crisis Act of 2019 - Helps to expedite housing construction by reducing the timeframe by which local agencies must approve or disapprove a housing project application, and limiting counties’ and cities’ ability to establish housing moratoria or caps. The bill includes other provisions to increase housing production over the next five years.  

AB 68 (Ting) Housing - Makes several changes to permitting and zoning requirements to ease construction of accessory dwelling units and increase housing supply. 

AB 285 (Friedman) Transportation plan for California - Updates Caltrans' requirements for preparing the California Transportation Plan, to ensure it includes considerations of environmental justice, the impacts of emerging technologies, and an assessment of sustainable communities strategies and specified grant programs.

There are also two important pending bills in this category that we oppose: 

AB 178 (Dahle) Weakens solar standards - Exempts certain homes being rebuilt after wildfires from meeting rooftop solar requirements. Such requirements are designed to lower customer utility bills, reduce energy use from the grid, and increase resilience.

AB 1424 (Berman) Barriers to electric vehicle charging -  Makes it more challenging to access electric vehicle charging by exempting providers from requirements to include credit card readers on new charging stations.

Waste and Plastic Pollution

 

SB 54 (Allen, Skinner, Stern and Wiener) and AB 1080 (Gonzalez, Calderon, Friedman and Ting) Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act - These bills establish a comprehensive framework to reduce the amount of single-use waste generated in California and require remaining packaging and products to be truly recyclable or compostable.

AB 792 (Ting and Irwin) Minimum recycled content for plastic beverage containers - Requires plastic bottles sold in California to contain a minimum amount of recycled content, both to help reduce plastic waste littering our communities, and to increase the market for recycled plastics.

AB 1162 (Kalra) Reduce plastic waste in hotels - Prohibits 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 936 (R. Rivas) Nonfloating oil clean-up - Requires separate clean-up plans 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 because the oils quickly sink below the surface.

AB 1057 (Limón) Financial liability for idle oil wells - Helps protect taxpayers from shouldering the costs and liabilities of decommissioning and remediation of inland oil wells that are no longer in use.

AB 1440 (Levine) Modernize oil and gas laws - Clarifies that the central mission of the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) and State Lands Commission is to ensure health, safety and environmental protection. Conflicts of interest exposed at DOGGR led to the dismissal of the head of the department and an oil spill in Kern County highlights a lack of transparency. AB 1440 would take some of the first necessary steps to reform and modernize DOGGR. 

SB 551 (Jackson) Decommissioning, clean up and remediation of oil and gas infrastructure - Requires DOGGR to develop a mechanism to assess the full cost of decommissioning, cleaning up and remediating oil and gas pipeline facilities, pump facilities and storage facilities.

Coastal Access

 

AB 1680 (Limón) Hollister Ranch beach access - Ensures that the public will be able to access the coastline at Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County.

Toxics and Health

 

SB 392 (Allen) Safer Consumer Products Update - Addresses impediments to the state’s “green chemistry program” that have hindered its ability to reduce the hazards of toxic chemicals in consumer products.

SB 574 (Leyva) Right to know about toxic fragrance and flavor chemicals - Requires manufacturers to fully disclose hazardous ingredients in fragrances and flavors used in cosmetics and personal care products sold in California.

Water

 

AB 1415 (Friedman) Reporting requirements for water supply management - Improves transparency of water supply management by giving the California Department of Water Resources better tools to enforce laws requiring local public entities to submit reports and plans.

Wildlife

 

We oppose AB 719 (Rubio and Gray) Wildlife trafficking - Perpetuates illegal trade and trafficking of alligator and crocodile parts by extending for five years a narrow provision in state law that allows continued commercial importation and sale, rather than letting that provision expire as scheduled in 2020. 

About the Authors

Victoria Rome

California Legislative Director

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.