Random Lengths News
California’s Promising New Climate Agenda — Activists Weigh In
As we reported last month, California’s environmental record last year was abysmal — just 74% on the “Environmental Scorecard” from the California League of Conservation Voters. And the Greater SoCal 350 Legislative Committee’s report card was equally bleak — all Ds and Fs across every subject area, from “oil and gas extraction and operations,” to “transportation” and “plastic pollution” to “Green New Deal and just transition.” Coalition for a Safe Environment founder Jesse Marquez and other activists weighed in.
“The last legislative session was a horrific disappointment,” said Sherry Lear, who heads the committee. The COVID-19 pandemic and oil company lobbying were two chief impediments cited in its report card. “Paid lobbyists were able to be present in Sacramento, while local folks were relegated to remote Zoom meetings,” it noted. “This meant more than ever that only those with ‘inside’ connections were able to be heard.”
Perhaps most bitterly, as Lear recalled, SoCal 350’s highest priority bill for environmental justice, Assembly Bill 345, “died a very ugly death” in a committee hearing when three Democrats voted against it, with personal attacks on the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, as well as activists. The bill would have required health protection zones between hazardous and polluting oil and gas production facilities and sensitive uses such as schools, homes and hospitals. California is the only oil-producing state without such health safety zones. After such a disappointment, this year could be quite different.
“We’ve been very pleasantly surprised at the sheer amount of environmental bills that have been introduced, and the quality and breadth of them,” Lear said. Some setbacks have already happened, but the sheer range of proposals is inspiring.
Dealing with both causes and consequences — as well as related issues of equity and justice — has produced scores of proposed laws across a multitude of inter-related public policy areas, as described by Dr. Daniel Kammen, a professor of energy at UC Berkeley. “The overarching view of where we’re going … is very much captured in Senate Bill 582 that says we need to become more aggressive than a 40% cut in emissions by 2030 — the science says we could probably double that or more,” Kammen told Random Lengths News. “So, 80% or more is a possibility based on the dramatic movement of solar, wind, energy storage.”
A paper he recently co-authored, “Accelerating the timeline for climate action in California,” argues that “California is falling behind in its climate leadership and would benefit economically and ecologically and in terms of social justice, by establishing more aggressive goals.”
Kammen went on to highlight several different bills — dealing with sea level rise, and environmental justice, as well as “Assembly Bill 1110, the Charge Ahead California Initiative, which will bring ZEV charging and ZEV ownership options and lease options to lower income people” which “dovetails beautifully with the Biden plan to build 500,000 EV charging stations.”
There are also “individual pieces that address the downside of our past, and that’s very much the bills that look in detail at fracking and our need to end natural gas, both for local health reasons, and for the more global climate story,” he said.
“This is a big and mixed package,” Kammen summarized, “But beginning really with the high-level mission in 582 and then even jumping down to Assembly Bill 1325 that will allow micro grids to be a critical part of the story, all of these put together as a resilient low-cost climate solution.”
“Paid lobbyists were able to be present in Sacramento, while local folks were relegated to remote Zoom meetings. This meant more than ever that only those with “inside” connections were able to be heard.” — from the Greater SoCal 350 Legislative Committee’s environmental report card