Schwarzenegger Signs Important Ocean and Air Bills

Remaining Bills Pose More Opportunities for Environmental Leadership

SAN FRANCISCO (September 23, 2004) -- California took big strides today to protect its natural resources by enacting important ocean protection and air quality laws, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). NRDC commended the governor for signing two marine protection bills today: the California Ocean Protection Act (S.B. 1319, Burton and Alpert) and a law to limit destructive bottom trawling (S.B. 1459, Alpert).

The ocean laws, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, are the first in the nation to adopt key recommendations of two prestigious national ocean commissions, the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. They aim to coordinate fragmented ocean management, limit damaging fishing practices, improve marine water quality and create an Ocean Protection Trust Fund. A broad range of conservation and sport and commercial fishing groups supported the legislation.

"California is leading the way for other ocean states and for badly needed reforms at the national level," said Karen Garrison, NRDC ocean program co-director. "These laws continue California's tradition of finding innovative solutions to problems facing the ocean and environment. But it's not enough for the state to act alone. The tide of ocean management needs to change everywhere, not just in California."

The governor also signed a trio of bills that will help California improve its air quality. The Clean Air Funding Act of 2004 (A.B. 923, Firebaugh) will allow local air districts to increase motor vehicle registration fees to fund a diesel engine retrofit program. Another bill (AB 2628 Pavley) will provide an incentive for more drivers to buy cleaner, more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles by allowing them to drive solo in the HOV lanes. A third bill (AB 2683, Lieber) will eliminate the current 30-year rolling smog check exemption for cars.

"From the Sierra to the sea, these laws move California forward," said Ann Notthoff, NRDC California advocacy director. "We look forward to the governor's signature on the remaining environmental bills on his desk."

NRDC still is watching for action on two more important air bills and a crucial water bill. AB 1009 (Pavley) would require heavy-duty commercial vehicles entering California to meet federal emissions standards. AB 2042 (Lowenthal) would require the South Coast Air Quality Management District to establish an emissions baseline for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for all major sources of air pollution, including ocean going vessels, trucks and heavy-duty yard equipment. A.B. 2572 (Kehoe) would require the use of water meters in some of California's remaining un-metered cities, including Sacramento, Lodi and Modesto.

Some of the most important environmental bills signed by the governor so far:

SB 1319 (Burton and Alpert) -- California Ocean Protection Act Builds on recommendations of two national commissions--the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission--which both call for urgent action to protect our oceans from wasteful fishing practices, pollution and habitat destruction. SB 1319 creates a state Ocean Protection Council to oversee and coordinate management of California's ocean resources. Council members include the Secretary for Resources, Secretary of Cal/EPA and Chair of the State Lands Commission. The bill improves marine management by shifting the focus from individual species to entire ecosystems, and creates an Ocean Protection Trust Fund.

SB 1459 (Alpert) -- Limits Bottom Trawling Trawl nets are a destructive kind of fishing gear that scrape the ocean floor, scooping everything--including untargeted sea life--in their way. California long ago banned bottom trawling from most state waters (0 to 3 miles from shore), but it still oversees several bottom-trawl fisheries that operate in patches of state waters and outside their bounds. This law will improve management of bottom-trawl fisheries under state oversight, encourage the development of less destructive fishing gears and practices, and authorize the state to recoup the cost of better management through permit fees.

AB 2514 (Committee on Natural Resources) -- Environmental License Plate Fund Increases transfer and renewal fees for environmental license plates from $25 to $30 and allows funds to be used to implement the California Ocean Protection Act to control environmental pollutants, protect wildlife and their habitat, and protect water quality.

AB 923 (Firebaugh) -- Clean Air Funding Act of 2004 Allows local air districts to increase motor vehicle registration fees by $2 (from $4 to $6 per vehicle) and increases the California tire fee by $0.75. The fees will fund the Carl Moyer diesel engine retrofit program and other state and local clean air programs.

AB 2628 (Pavley) -- Hybrid Cars in HOV Lanes Provides an incentive for drivers to buy hybrid vehicles by allowing single occupant hybrids in California's carpool lanes. Increasing the market demand for hybrids could spur automakers to make more of the vehicles and to make them more affordable. AB 2683 (Lieber) -- Eliminate the 30 Year Smog Check Exemption Requires vehicles that are in the Smog Check Program today to remain in the program in the future, thereby eliminating the current rolling exemption for cars that are more than 30 years old.

SB 1155 (Machado) -- Delta Water Use Requires the state Department of Water Resources, in collaboration with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, to develop a plan to meet water quality standards and objectives for the San Francisco Bay-Delta for which the State Water Project is responsible. The plan must be filed with the state before any increase in pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta can occur. The law is needed because of the so-called "Napa Agreement," a backroom deal by south of delta contractors and the state and federal water projects to increase their water supply by increasing pumping from the delta, which already suffers from poor water quality caused by diversions. This agreement failed to include any plans to resolve ongoing violations of water quality standards.

AB 1876 (Chan) -- Clean San Francisco Bay Beaches Under current law, local agencies are required to monitor coastal beach water quality and, if contamination is discovered, post warning signs or close the beach. This law extends the requirement to heavily used beaches along San Francisco and San Pablo bays.

AB 1701 (Laird) -- Conservation Acquisitions and Sale of State Conservation Lands This law could help prevent controversies such as those that have plagued the state deal at the Hearst Ranch. It increases the amount of information disclosed to the public prior to expenditure of public funds for conservation lands and modifies the appraisal process to ensure that appraisals are independent. The law also sets up a procedure to provide public review and comment before sales are approved.

AB 2600 (Leslie and Laird) -- Sierra Nevada Conservancy Establishes a Sierra Nevada Conservancy to protect vital resources in the Sierra Nevada by making grants to acquire and manage land for various public purposes.

Important bills that NRDC still is urging the governor to sign:

AB 1009 (Pavley) -- NAFTA Trucks Requires heavy-duty commercial vehicles entering California to meet federal emissions standards. The bill is needed to protect California air quality following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the U.S. Department of Transportation doesn't need to study environmental impacts before allowing polluting trucks across the U.S. border with Mexico.

AB 2042 (Lowenthal) -- Air Pollution at Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles Requires the South Coast Air Quality Management District to establish an emissions "baseline" for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for all major sources of air pollution, including ocean going vessels and harborcraft, trucks, locomotives and heavy-duty yard equipment. It requires local and state entities to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement to implement emission control measures for the ports to ensure that air pollution does not exceed the established baselines.

AB 2572 (Kehoe) -- Central Valley Water Meters Encourages water conservation by requiring the use of water meters in California's remaining unmetered cities, including Sacramento, Lodi and Modesto. Communities that bill for water based on the actual amount of water used consume approximately 25 percent less water than communities that pay flat rates.

An important bill that the governor should not have vetoed:

AB 2673 (Simitian) -- Federal Land Transfers Would have protected wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, national parks, and other valuable federal public lands in California from a loophole in federal law known as the "disclaimer rule." The disclaimer rule allows the Department of Interior to give away property without environmental analysis and public review. Lands with wilderness and other highly sensitive natural values could be disposed of and subjected to road construction and other harmful activities. AB 2673 would have required California cities and counties to certify that they will use and manage any property they receive under this federal loophole in compliance with state environmental laws.