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News

The Good & the Bad of Recent Environmental Legislation in Sacramento

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Is that smog or fog blocking the Hollywood Sign? | Photo by Clinton Steeds via Flickr


Is that smog or fog blocking the Hollywood Sign? | Photo by Clinton Steeds via Flickr
As the legislature wrapped up last week, a slew of bills were voted down and voted through to the Governor's desk, many of them dealing with the environment from issues like state parks to air quality and other issues.

“From clean air to clean water to protecting open space, the environment was not treated with a lot of respect this year,” said Dan Jacobson, legislative director for Environment California, in a statement. “We spent most of our time playing defense -- blocking proposals to exempt California’s environmental laws, fighting oil drilling off our coast, keeping our state parks open to the public. Big polluters used the economy, among other tactics, to try to relax and rollback key environmental protections.”

Jacobson rounded up what happened last week, below. For those good news items, their fate is now in the hands of Governor Schwarzenegger--will he veto or approve?

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Preservation
This year the Governor threatened to close 220 state parks, and then he modified his decree and threatened to close 100 state parks. To date no list has been produced that identifies which parks will be closed.

The good news: SB 679 (Wolk) SB 372 (Kehoe) these bills take steps to protect our State parks by making it harder to build toll roads and powerlines. Both bills passed

The bad news: the legislature failed to pass legislation to provide stable funding for our state parks.

Oceans

The good news: no sneaky vote in the last days of session

In July, the State Assembly, led by Assemblymember Pedro Nava and Lt. Governor Garamendi-, blocked passage of the budget bill to open the coast of California to oil drilling.

The bad news: In July, the Senate PASSED the budget bill to open the coast to oil drilling. Four bills to reduce marine debris did not pass

SB 4 (Oropeza)- ban cigarette smoking on state beaches -- Held in the Assembly

AB 1358 (Hill)- bill to ban Styrofoam -- Held in the Assembly

AB 925 (Saldana)- bill to require bottle caps to be leashed to the bottle -- Held in the Senate

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AB 68 (Brownley)- bill to restrict plastic bags - Held in the Assembly

Renewable Energy
From the beginning of the year, Speaker Bass and Senate Pro Tem Steinberg identified the Renewable Energy Standard as the No. 1 environmental priority. This bill requires utilities to generate 33%of their electricity from clean energy by 2020. This bill is poised for passage.

The good news: This bill stands to be the biggest clean energy victory in the country, creating a market for approximately 68,000 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity per year by 2020. If implemented, it will cut 21 million tons of global warming pollution and create 200,000 green jobs.

The bad news: The bill was loaded up with anti-environmental amendment s in the last minute for things like new dams in Canada, fossil fuel power plants, and loopholes for noncompliance with the mandate.

Solar Power
Arguably California’s most abundant natural resource, solar power got some help this year in the legislature.

Good news: SB 32 (Negrete McLeod) passed, creating a feed-in tariff program for the state, making it possible for owners of warehouses and empty parking lots to finally make use of their rooftops to generate wholesale solar power. Passed

AB 920 (Huffman) will require all of the state’s electric utilities to pay solar customers for any surplus electricity generated on an annual basis.. (At print time this bill is still awaiting concurrence in the Assembly

Bad news: AB 560 (Skinner) would have raised the cap on net metering from 2.5% to 5%

Toxics
The Administration is months behind schedule writing the Green Chemistry Initiative regulations. In light of that, Senator Fran Pavley introduced legislation to ban Bisphenol A (BPA).

The good news: SB 757 (Pavley) bans the use of lead wheel weights in California. This will reduce the amount of lead in our drinking water. Passed

Bad news: SB 797 (Pavley)- This bill would have banned BPA in baby products and food products. Held in the Assembly

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