2011 Legislative Wrap-Up: Big Wins for the Environment; A Few Veto Casualties

Last night, the 2011 legislative session officially came to a close at midnight. The highly anticipated first year of Governor Brown’s new term has yielded new laws to protect public health from polluted drinking water, lead, and BPA in baby products. Brown signed legislation designed to curtail the immensely controversial practice of “shark finning” and well as legislation to protectCalifornia’s precious State Parks from closure. Overall, Governor Brown had an excellent record of signing strong environmental bills into law; a few such measures, however, fell victim to the Governor’s veto pen.

Bills Signed:

PCL Sponsored Legislation

AB 320 (Hill) – This bill prevents 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. After a similar PCL-sponsored bill was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger last year, PLC is thrilled that AB 320 is now law. Huge thanks to Assemblymember Hill for carrying this bill for two years, to Governor Brown for signing it into law, and for all those who worked hard on the passage of this legislation. 


This year, the governor signed a couple 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 359 (Huffman) – Groundwater management plans – This bill encourages 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 ushers 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.

Access to Clean Drinking Water

All four of the Human Right to Water Bills that had made it to governor’s desk have been signed (six bills were originally introduced). These bills are designed to help allCalifornia have access to safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water.

AB 938 (V.M. Perez) – Language Access on Public Health Notifications – This bill requires 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 provides 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 helps 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.

Related to safe drinking water, the Governor also signed AB 54 (Solorio) and AB 1292 (Hernandez); both bills will protect, enhance and channel funds to drinking water systems.

Wildlife Protection

AB 376 (Fong) – Shark Fin Ban – This bill, co-authored with Assembly Member Huffman, makes it unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute a shark fin used in the traditional Chinese dish 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 enacts 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 closes an enforcement loophole inCalifornia’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.


The Governor signed legislation establishing the most ambitious recycling goal in the nation forCalifornia, at the same time enacting incentives aimed at increasing recycled material processing and manufacturing in-state. Together, this strategy is aimed at creating more than 60,000 green jobs in the state over the next 8 years. 

AB 341 (Chesbro) – Bill presents a package of policies that will move California forward from land filling to waste reduction, recycling, and composting, by setting a statewide diversion goal of 75% and finally expanding recycling opportunities to the state’s largest underserved sectors: businesses and apartment buildings.

AB 1149 (Gordon) – This bill will provide market-based incentives of $10-$20 million annually to processors and manufacturers of recycled plastic.


SB 454 (Pavley) – This bill allows the California Energy Commission to enforce energy efficiency standards for appliances. This bill requires recipients of energy efficiency rebates to certify that licensed contractors were used and any required permits obtained.  SB 454 helps level the playing field for builders, contractors and businesses who are complying withCalifornia’s efficiency standards.    

State Parks

AB 42 (Huffman) – State Parks Partnerships – this bill allows 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.

Bills Vetoed:

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

SB 833 (Vargas) – San Diego solid waste facilities – This bill, co-authored by Assembly Member Hueso, would have protected 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.

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