Back to school as lawmakers recess
Happy September! Maybe it’s because I come from an academic family, but I can never get over the feeling that September signals the start of a new year. If we lived in a place with normal seasons, the leaves would be turning and the first signs of fall would be in the air; here in California, we still get the sharpened pencils, empty notebooks, and brand new school outfits that signify new opportunities and dreams.
One set of new opportunities comes in the legislation approved by the departing California Senate and Assembly, and (likely) about to be signed into law by the Governor. While Dan Jacobson of Environment California gave the session a B+ overall, speaking to Capital Public Radio’s Ed Joyce, there are some important bills worth noting – not least the water bond, finally passed at $7.5 billion and already signed by the Governor. (Note that this doesn’t mean the bond is law; it just means it will progress to the ballot in November, where voters will have a chance to decide its fate.)
Last week I wrote about some of the most pressing bills being considered, including Perea’s AB 69. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the other important measures coming out of this legislative session:
- Groundwater: A trio of groundwater bills passed, establishing a framework for local monitoring and regulation of groundwater extraction for the first time in California history. The bills provide for state oversight of local “groundwater sustainability plans,” and establish fines for local jurisdictions found to have violations. Slate’s Eric Holthaus has more on the implications of the historic legislation.
- Oil and Water: Senator Fran Pavely’s bill to require disclosure of the source and amount of water used in “enhanced oil recovery,” a form of well stimulation, was sent to the Governor’s desk. The bill essentially closes a loophole in last year’s fracking regulation bill, SB4.
- Oil by rail: Legislators also approved a bill to require carriers to inform state and local authorities of planned oil by rail shipments in California. An earlier effort to regulate the shipments and impose fees for spill prevention and response failed legal muster due to federal interstate commerce rules.
- Trucks & HDV emissions: SB 1204 creates the California Clean Truck and Bus Program, providing funding for efforts to reduce emissions from medium and heavy duty vehicles in the state, with an emphasis on disadvantaged communities. The measure provides funding for these efforts from the sale of cap and trade permits.
- Plastic bag ban: A statewide ban on single-use plastic bags has finally passed after numerous iterations. During his one and only debate with gubernatorial challenger Neel Kashkari last night, Governor Brown stated that he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk – making California the only state in the nation with a ban on single-use plastic bags.
- AB 2145: The bill that opponents had dubbed the “Utility Monopoly Protection Act of 2014” died with the end of the legislative session, as bill sponsor Assemblyman Steven Bradford found not a single senator to sponsor it in that chamber. AB2145 would have made it more difficult for local governments to opt-out of utility service and form CCA’s to provide clean, renewable power. Rob Collier has more on this here.
That’s it for the quick California roundup! I’m sure I missed things; if there’s something particularly egregious or exciting that I left out, just email me and I’ll try to include it next week.
Meanwhile, outside of California, the climate risk work we started with the Risky Business Project lives on. This week, just over two months out from the publication of the Risky Business report, the Columbia Journalism Review published a piece heralding a major shift in the way the media covers climate change. Once relegated to the science and politics beats, climate change racked up an impressive number of column inches on the business page during the summer of 2014. The Risky Business Project wasn’t the first to tell climate change as a business story, but we’re thrilled that the CJR attributed a major part of this shift to our report.
Still, we’re by no means resting on our laurels. Our Risk Committee members and staff (in addition to yours truly) have been fanning out across the map to make the case that businesses must take action to reduce their own climate risk, and to push the public sector to mitigate the long-term effects of climate change. Yesterday I had the chance to watch Risk Committee member Henry Cisneros speak about the role of business in reducing climate risk at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. Risk Committee Co-Chair Hank Paulson made a similar case to the Oregon Business Council in late July, and to the Seattle Chamber of Commerce just yesterday. Mr. Paulson, along with Bob Rubin and Tom Steyer, will carry their own versions of this message to Climate Week NYC later this month.
That’s all for this week!