Legislative Roundup: What’s To Come Heading Into Final Stretch Of Session

Last week, the Legislature determined the fate of many pivotal environmental bills before breaking for summer recess. For some bills, it was the final deadline to make it out of their respective policy committees before an assessment of their fiscal impact in the Appropriations committee. Other bills, like legislation to delay the Water Bond or appropriate funds to the High Speed Rail project, were fast-tracked through the Senate and Assembly to be placed on the Governor’s desk for his final approval.

PCL is tracking these critical environmental bills that will move forward as soon as the Legislature reconvenes on August 6th:

AB 972 (Butler) – CA Hydraulic Fracturing (a.k.a. ‘Fracking’) Moratorium – PCL supports this bill, which would temporarily ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing – also called “fracking” – in California. Fracking is a dangerous oil and/or natural-gas mining technique that has been linked to environmental damage and other toxic effects. The bill would ensure that no new fracking would take place in the State until the process could be effectively regulated to protect the environment and public safety.

AB 1750 (Solorio) – Rainwater Capture Act of 2012 – This bill would authorize and encourage Californians to capture rainwater off their roofs for non-potable purposes, such as landscaping. The bill provides safeguards to protect public health and potable water systems, as well as authorizes landscape contractors to install rainwater capture systems. PCL supports this bill because it will help California move forward on rainwater capture, thus improving regional self-sufficiency.

SB 973 (Vargas) – CEQA Exemption – If enacted, SB 973 would exempt all park use for special events permits from an environmental review process required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). PCL opposes this bill due to the redundant nature of the policy. A provision already exists that exempts CEQA review for “minor temporary use of land having negligible or no permanent effects on the environment”. Thus, the majority of situations listed in SB 973 (youth tournaments, racing or walking events, holiday celebrations, concerts, weddings, job fairs, etc.) would already be outside the CEQA review process. PCL also opposes this bill given that the rare situation in which a park use or special event would cause irreparable damage to the environment, CEQA review should be conducted to identify, minimize and mitigate impacts. For example, a fireworks show over a sensitive coastal zone that could impact marine mammals, birds, and other sensitive wildlife, should require environmental analysis.

SB 1572 (Pavley) & AB 1532 (Pérez) – Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account – PCL supports the framework for both bills, which would direct the California Air Resources Control Board (CARB) to set up guidelines on how hundreds of millions (or perhaps billions) of dollars of cap and trade revenues should be allocated through the creation of a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account. Speaker Pérez’s bill – AB 1532 – sets out general categories where funding would be allocated, such as investment in promoting sustainable land use and transportation projects, advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, and increasing natural resource protection (such as the purchase of open space, investing in tree planting, etc.). While AB 1532 largely leaves it in CARB’s hands to determine how funds would be allocated among these categories, Senator Pavley’s bill sets specific allocations for funding categories, with a large focus on ‘readily implementable projects’, such as retrofitting K-12 schools and universities to be more energy efficient. Each of the bills offers pros and cons. PCL will work with both authors and others in the environmental community to ensure the final measure adopted will meet the goals of AB 32, including achieving quantifiable GHG reductions, advancing the state’s clean energy economy, and protecting California’s vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.

When the Legislature reconvenes from summer recess on August 6th, they will have until the end of the month to decide the fate of these crucial environmental bills.