Legislative Session Ends: Big Losses for Public Health, Renewables and Waste; While Land Use, Water and Air Quality Pull Through

As the gavel went down on the legislative session, key environmental measures such as the ban on plastic grocery bags (AB 1998 Brownley), the phasing out the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) for children’s products (SB 797 Pavley), and enforceable standards for the expansion of renewable energy failed to get the votes needed to head to the governor’s desk.

However, PCL co-sponsored bills dealing with water and land use, made the cut and are now awaiting the governor’s signature. Along with the PCL co-sponsored bills, small victories were achieved in ecosystem restoration, agricultural land use, and pesticide prevention. The governor has until September 30th to sign or veto all the measures passed by the state legislature.

PCL sponsored bills passed by the legislature and sent to the Governor’s desk:

SB 918 (Pavley)- Water recycling. Increases water recycling in the state by directing the California Department of Public Health to complete public safety standards for using recycled water to recharge groundwater basins and augment surface storage. This measure ensures the development of a safe, cost-effective, and drought-proof source of new water for the state.

SB 1124 (Negrete McLeod) – Land conservation: County of San Bernardino. Bill ensures that San Bernardino County fulfils its obligation to protect lands it purchased with state bond money from Proposition 70 passed in 1988. The County purchased the land two decades ago and promised to protect the land with easements. However, the easements were never placed.

AB 499 (Hill) – California Environmental Quality Act. Makes clarifying amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to ensure that all parties with a direct interest in a CEQA case are aware of a pending lawsuit and parties with no direct link to the case are not unnecessarily dragged into litigation.

The legislature passed these key environmental priorities:

SB 51 (Ducheny) – Salton Sea Restoration Council. Establishes the Salton Sea Restoration Council as a state entity within the Natural Resources Agency to implement preferred alternatives outlined in the Salton Sea Ecosystem Restoration Program.

SB 1142 (Wiggins) – Agricultural resources: grants. Creates a track within the Department of Conservation’s California Farmland Conservancy Program to fund agricultural easements that can provide secondary conservation benefits such as flood protection and habitat preservation.

SB 1365 (Corbett) – Public safety: consumer products. Bills allows the Department of Toxics Substances to test for lead and to enforce the federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to ensure public safety.

SB 1433 (Leno) – Air pollution penalties: inflation adjustments. Adjusts ceilings for air pollution violations with inflation so the real value of statutory air penalties does not further decline. The ceiling for the most commonly used category (strict liability) has not been increased since 1982.

AB 1963 (Nava) – Pesticide poisoning. Bill improves the pesticide poisoning prevention program to protect farm workers who handle pesticides. By simply having laboratories send test results electronically to the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), state officials will have the necessary information to monitor the existing pesticide poisoning prevention program and protect farm workers.

AB 2289 (Eng) – Smog check program: testing: penalties. Bill enacts critical updates to California’s Smog Check program that will save money for consumers and the state and boost the emission benefits of the smog check program, removing 70 tons of pollution per day.

These bills did not receive enough votes to make the cut:

SB 565 (Pavley) – Water resources. Would have addressed the current problem of illegal water diversions by allowing the State Water Resources Control Board to request annual statements of water diversion and use from major water diverters, and would update the existing statutory cap on civil liabilities for unauthorized water diversions.

SB 722 (Simitian, Kehoe and Steinberg) – Utilities: renewable energy resources. Would have created a clear, enforceable 33% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for all utilities, thus promoting an increase in renewable energy production and securing a market for renewable energy providers.

SB 797 (Pavley and Liu) – Product safety: bisphenol A. Would have protected children’s health by prohibiting the toxic chemical and synthetic estrogen bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottle, sippy cups, infant formula cans and baby food jars and also ensured that the replacement chemical was not carcinogenic or a reproductive toxin.

SB 1100 (Corbett) – Product stewardship: household batteries. Would have resulted in significant savings to local governments and taxpayers by requiring household battery manufacturers to cover the costs associated with the end of life of their products.

AB 1998 (Brownley) – Solid waste: single-use carryout bags. Would have reduced a significant source of waste and ocean pollution by prohibiting grocery stores from distributing single-use bags.

AB 2595 (Huffman) – Irrigated agriculture: pesticide use: waste discharge requirements. Would have improved compliance with critical water quality laws that protect California’s waterways by linking compliance with polluted agricultural runoff requirements to the issuance of operator identification numbers needed for pesticide use.