This Year’s Environmental Bills Fared Better Than Last, Though Governor Rejects Several Key Initiatives

Governor Schwarzenegger split the difference on the two other PCL sponsored bills. He signed SB 1124 (Negrete McLeod), which 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.

However, he vetoed AB 499 (Hill), which was a common sense measure with no recorded opposition that simply made 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. This veto was very disappointing considering how vocal the Governor has been on CEQA. Here he missed an easy opportunity to close a glaring loophole that has made CEQA litigation more costly and time consuming. PCL will continue to push for this measure next session.

By the numbers, environmental bills that made it to the Governor’s desk faired pretty well, though, some top priority bills were vetoed.  Here is the breakdown.

These measures were signed:

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 346 (Kehoe)- Hazardous materials: motor vehicle brake friction materials.  Phases out copper from automobile brakes by 2025 to remove the single largest source of toxic copper in our urban waterways.

SB 1006 (Pavley)- Natural Resources: Climate Change: Strategic Growth Council. Clarifies the grant eligibility list to include JPAs, MPOs, special districts and other local government organizations. Currently, JPAs and special districts, such as Water or Parks and Recreation Districts, are not included under the list of eligible applicants. Based on the demonstrated performance of JPA’s and special districts in green projects, the incorporation of these additional groups to the eligible applicant list is critical.

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. Allows the Department of Toxics Substances to test for lead and to enforce the federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to ensure public safety.

AB 1963 (Nava) – Pesticide poisoning. 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. 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.

AB 2398 (Perez J.)-  Product Stewardship: Carpet. Creates increased demand for recycled carpet products in California by increasing the state’s recycled content requirement for carpet bought by the state (from 10% post-consumer recycled content to 25% post-consumer carpet content). Requires carpet manufacturers to prepare a carpet stewardship plan to meet the recycling targets.  At request of the industry, the bill requires the plan to include a self-assessment mechanism that will allow the industry to finance its activities to increase recycling of carpets.

While we can celebrate the new policies embodied in the above new laws, it is worth noting that along with AB 499, the other vetoed bills represented some of the most critical measures the Governor considered. 

These measures were vetoed:

SB 1433 (Leno) – Air pollution penalties: inflation adjustments. Would have adjusted 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 301 (Fuentes)- Vended Water. Would have required businesses licensed to bottle or sell water for human use from private water sources to report annually the total volume of water bottled or distributed, the source of the water, whether the source is privately or publicly owned, and the county of that source. Information regarding how the bottling or vending operation may affect groundwater aquifers or surface water supplies is generally not available and is not currently required to be reported.

AB 737 (Chesbro)- Solid waste: Diversion. Would have moved California forward from landfilling to waste reduction, recycling, and composting, by requiring all commercial waste generators to establish recycling programs.

AB 1405 (De Leon/M. Perez)- Community Benefits Fund. Would have established a Community Benefits Fund to direct a portion of revenues from AB 32 implementation to help Californians who are least able to confront the expected impacts of the climate crisis at the local level.