End of Session Summary: Fate of Key Environmental Bills Lie in the Governor’s Hands

Last Friday, the California Legislature wrapped-up the 2011 legislative session. In the final weeks and days of the session, both houses acted on hundreds of bills, many of which directly impact our environment. We have already sent out a special edition Insider highlighting the negatives from this session – namely the weakening of key provisions of CEQA. However, by the end of session, legislators also passed critical legislation to protect the health of our children, discourage the savage practice of shark finning, improve drinking water supplies of disadvantaged communities, and bills to diversify California’s water supplies. Now these bills have made their way to Governor Brown’s desk, and he will determine whether these bills will become law or be vetoed. Until then, the jury is out on whether or not this session can be called a success.

Here’s a quick summary of the top environmental bills that PCL was working on and following that were approved by the Legislature and are waiting to be sent to the Governor’s desk.

PCL Sponsored Legislation

AB 320 (Hill) – Bill will prevent CEQA lawsuits and litigation from being thrown out in the event a “recipient of approval” appears only after the statute of limitations time period has passed. The bill will help bring clarity to the question of which parties must be named in CEQA lawsuits and litigation.


This year, the legislature passed a handful of bills aimed towards reducing our reliance on imported water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary, by improving the development and reuse of our local water supplies. These bills include:

AB 275 (Solorio) –  The Rainwater Capture Act of 2011 – which would authorize landowners to install, maintain, and operate rain barrel systems, provided that the systems comply with specified requirements.

AB 359 (Huffman) – Groundwater management plans – Bill would encourage the sustainable management of groundwater resources by requiring, as a condition of receiving a state grant or loan, local agencies to including a map of prime recharge areas in their groundwater management plans. It would then require these maps to be shared with the planning agencies, interested parties and organizations.

AB 849 (Gatto) – Graywater building standards – This bill encourage the installation and implementation of residential and commercial graywater and storm retention systems; to reduce or eliminate regulatory barriers for water use and efficiency, and if feasible, to provide incentives to increase investment in and use of graywater systems.

SB 834 (Wolk) – Integrated regional water management plans – would require regions receiving water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to demonstrate how their Integrated Regional Water Management project will reduce reliance on the Delta.

Human Right to Water Bill Package

Four out of the six bills in the Human Right to Water Bill Package have made it to the Governor. These bills are designed to help all California have access to safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water. The bills that are only a signature away from enactment include:

AB 938 (V.M. Perez) – Language Access on Public Health Notifications – This bill would require the public water system provide a written and non written public notice in English, Spanish, and in the language spoken by prescribed numbers of residents of the community served, in the event the public water system does not meet safe water drinking requirements.

AB 983 (Perea) – Access to Clean Up and Abatement Funding – This bill will provide clarity to existing legislation in regards to the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, This fund continuously appropriates grants and revolving fund loans to provide for the design and construction of projects for public water systems that will enable suppliers to meet safe drinking water standards.

AB 1221 (Alejo) – Drinking Water Funding – This bill would help with infrastructural projects that deliver safe drinking water and allow for responsible waste water management in rural and disadvantaged communities throughout the state.

SB 244 (Wolk) – General Plans: Identifying Unincorporated Areas – This bill requires cities, counties and local agency formation commissions (LAFCOs) to analyze infrastructure deficiencies in unincorporated disadvantaged communities. The bill works to ensure that these neglected unincorporated communities, are provided with the basic necessities for a safe and healthy living environment.

Wildlife Protection

AB 376 (Fong) – Shark Fin Ban – This bill, co-authored with Assembly Member Huffman, would make it unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute a shark fin used in the traditional Chinese dish aptly name, shark fin soup. This bill attempts to minimize the dangerous falls in shark populations and consequent damages to the world’s marine ecosystems.


AB 1319 (Butler) – BPA ban in children’s products –  The bill would enact the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act, which would prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution in commerce of any bottle or cup that contains the cancer causing chemical bisphenol A (BPA) that is intended primarily for infants or children three years of age or younger’s use.

SB 646 (Pavley) – Toxic lead jewelry ban enforcement – This bill would close an enforcement loophole in California’s landmark lead-in-jewelry law. Lead is a powerful neurotoxicant; children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to its effects which include developmental disabilities and other serious chronic health problems. Now, three years of enforcement data show that multiple vendors/retailers have repeatedly violated the law without incurring any statutory penalties. This bill will stop the ability of new violators to bypass the lead-in-jewelry law.

Solid Waste

SB 833 (Vargas) – San Diego solid waste facilities – This bill, co-authored by Assembly Member Hueso, will protect critical drinking water sources and sacred Native American sites in Northern San Diego County, by making it illegal to operate a landfill within 1,000 feet of those sensitive resources. This bill applies only to new landfills and not existing, permitted landfills or any expansion of an existing, permitted landfill.

State Parks

AB 42 (Huffman) – State Parks Partnerships – this bill will allow the state to explore beneficial partnerships with non-profit organizations that can help support state park system. In these times, when our state parks are being proposed for drastic program cuts and potentially massive closures, it is important to safeguard this multi-million dollar public asset and maintain public access to our parks.

Please contact Governor Brown TODAY and urge him to sign these measures.  You can call (916.445.2841), fax (916. 558.3160) or e-mail the Governor. When it comes to protecting our land, water, and natural resources, California can not afford to have an unproductive year.