What: Planning and Conservation League’s 2023 California Environmental Assembly

When: January 19th, 26th and February 2nd, 9th 2023

Where: Online. Zoom Links will be provided to registrants closer to the date of the Assembly.

The title of the 2023 Assembly was Extreme Measures for Extreme Times: What We Need to do Now. PCL strongly believes that we are falling short of enacting measures that will curb the climate crisis fast enough to avoid catastrophic impacts. Thus, we are designing our panels in 2023 focused on both immediate short-term solutions and strategies for the future. The sessions featured topics of water, land use, transportation, CEQA/ environmental litigation, habitat connectivity, and wildfire. The 2023 PCL Assembly had a total of nine sessions held each Thursday starting January 19th and running through February 9th. There were two sessions a day with one starting at 9 am and the other starting at 10:45 am with the exception of our panels on February 2nd, our first panel that day started at 10:45 am and our second panel started at 12:30 pm and runs until 2 pm.

Videos, Presentations, and other information on the Assembly can be found below.

2023 Assembly Schedule

Assembly Panel Descriptions Panelists

Click on the names of our moderators and panelists to read their bios.

Aligning State Mandates with Local Creativity

This panel would discuss the phenomenon of state versus local controls, drawing on examples from housing, local GHG mitigation and other areas.  State law on environmental issues for years was focused on protection- such as CEQA and the Coastal Act. Recent statewide efforts to address housing and greenhouse gas impacts have involved incentives or restrictions on local jurisdiction.  Some local jurisdictions balked at state efforts to impose local controls and continue to do so.  In recent years, development interests have gained the advantage and some legislation that places development over environmental interest has gained ground despite local pushback.  ONV’s “Our Neighborhood Voices” initiative and similar efforts have gained steam. The interplay of state and local interests is always complicated and questions like housing or greenhouse gas mitigation have made it more so. This panel will examine recent developments and trends in the ongoing interplay of state mandates and local creativity.

Moderator: Douglas Carstens, Board President, Planning and Conservation League


  • Beverly Grossman Palmer, Attorney, Strumwasser Woocher
  • Ashley Werner, Directing Attorney, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability
  • Ivanka Saunders, Policy Coordinator, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability (bio pending)

New Housing Law and Sustainable Communities: What’s working, what’s not

In recent years, the legislature has passed a long list of funding measures and policies aimed at addressing the affordable housing crisis: General Plan and Regional Housing Needs Allocation reforms, Accessory Dwelling Unit laws, Permit streamlining, and lots of CEQA exemptions.  Most recently AB 2011 and SB 6 could have a significant impact on where we direct our housing investments, by allowing housing by-right on underutilized commercial sites.

But is it all enough to produce the housing we need any time soon? Are we building housing that’s affordable enough? Is it location efficient and aligned with our GHG reduction mandates? Are we building housing that provides equitable access to opportunity for all, without displacement?

Moderator: Matthew Baker, Policy Director, Planning and Conservation League


  • Marina Wiant, Vice President of Government Affairs, California Housing Consortium
  • Dov Kadin, Senior Planner for Sacramento Area Council of Governments
  • Veronica Beaty, Director of Policy & Research, California Coalition for Rural Housing
  • Anya Lawler, Public Interest Advocates

How Do We Make Massive Methane Emission Reductions Now?

Globally, methane emissions have continued to increase year to year. California, with its expansive agricultural industry; widespread oil and gas production; historic and expanding waste facilities; utilities; housing and other major methane sources is a major contributor to this on-going destructive process for the planet.

This panel will examine what can be done in the short and long term in California to help slow this catastrophic trend and how our state can lead the way for the rest of the country and the world in reducing Methane emissions.

In this regard, California imports 90% of its methane gas from Colorado, New Mexico, Canada and other North American producers. Gas leakage rates associated with extraction, processing, transportation and storage of the gas varies amongst suppliers and can be as high as 66%, sending massive amounts of Methane into the atmosphere on an on-going basis.

Can California manage this problem by procuring independently certified low-methane natural gas from non-profit agents? By leading the creation of an “A-grade” certified gas buyers’ alliance, can California accelerate methane mitigation industry wide and on a global scale?

Natural gas imports in California also vary widely in composition. On average, methane comprises 70-90% of “natural gas” The rest is made up of toxic air contaminants and other miscellaneous gases. If the state were to require widespread gas composition data collection and reporting, including what is held in various gas reservoirs around the state, how will this influence both regulatory and utility decision making. How would such decisions affect public health in disadvantaged communities?

Should Assembly Bill 3217 (“Know Your Oil”), dropped in early 2020 by the legislature at the onset of the Covid crisis, be revived? The bill required long-overdue disclosure from California’s producers and refiners about the makeup of the “extra-heavy” oil they produce.

Extra heavy oil can elevate methane emissions from the extensive natural gas used to generate steam to extract and refine gas from unconventional sources. Will tracking oil content in the context of California importing over half of its oil from foreign destinations, make the state a climate transparency leader for the rest of the world?

Every ton of methane that is rapidly reduced is worth 135 tons of CO2. As California ramps up satellite and other airborne measurements regarding methane leakage, should the state establish a methane data center that purchases data and makes it public on a near real-time basis with the goal of vastly improving both the coordination of measurement and informed climate action?

Continuing and expanding methane leakage is a massive problem for the state and the planet. How can informed consumer buying behavior help us with this problem?

Please join us for an informative and action-oriented discussion of how our State can help lead the way in reducing global warming and resulting climate change.

Moderator: Kevin Johnson, Board Vice President, Planning and Conservation League

Ken Alex, Director, Project Climate at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment
Deborah Gordon, Senior Principal, Climate Intelligence, Rocky Mountain Institute
Dr. Scott Kelley, PhD, Professor at San Diego State
Riley Duren, Executive Director, Carbon Mapper, Inc. (a 501c3 nonprofit organization) and Research Scientist at the University of Arizona

Can Offshore Wind in Federal Waters be Responsible?

Critically evaluating the potential use of offshore wind (OSW) in federal waters off of California’s coast is necessary and challenging. We need to reduce climate impacts on all ecosystems, including marine ecosystems, by adding more renewable energy sources like OSW, and protect those ecosystems from the impacts of infrastructure development in the process.  Renewable energy is critical to reducing our climate impacts, as is protecting the habitats we are trying to save. Identifying how we need to thread that proverbial needle with all our tribal, environmental justice, and community partners is our immediate challenge. Can OSW be responsible if we manage and mitigate for its impacts by employing science-based decision-making, robust stakeholder engagement, and a commitment to protecting the ecosystems we are trying to save, every step of the way?  This panel will address these questions with experts from various fields and geographical interests.

Moderator: Carl Zichella – Consultant


  • Amber Hewett, National Wild Federation, Program Director, Offshore Wind Energy
  • Steve Black, Founder and President, Steve Black Strategies
  • Craig Tucker, Ph.D., Partner, Lost Coast Wind
  • Lucas Zucker, Co-Executive Director, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

Can Modular Nuclear Reactors Help Save The Planet?

For decades, the mainstream California environmental community has firmly been opposed to the proliferation of nuclear power facilities. As the energy sector is transitioning to support a clean economy, the need for nuclear technology is changing and new advanced reactors being designed and demonstrated today are distinctly different from the reactors built several decades ago. In fall 2022, California passed legislation to extend the life of Diablo Canyon by 5 years in recognition of its contribution to carbon free energy. Are these changes enough to warrant reconsideration of the historical position of environmentalists, not just in California but around the world?

Our panelists will discuss the latest energy models to achieve a clean economy and how nuclear may contribute, how nuclear technology has changed and the impact on safety and waste. They will discuss how the DOE is supporting the demonstration of these new technologies. They will also discuss the state and local efforts underway across the nation to conduct feasibility studies associated with these new technologies including repowering coal stations with advanced nuclear technology.

The panel will also address abiding skepticism about the short- and long-term dollar costs associated with the production and installation of Modular Nuclear Reactors and will examine the critical question of how fast MNR’S can be brought on line in sufficient quantity to materially slow global warming.

Conference participants are encouraged to join the panel and be prepared to ask what they might consider to be “tough” questions, keeping in mind the evolving and growing extreme hazards of unchecked climate change.”

Moderator: Todd Allmendinger, Director of Consulting and Research, Cleantech Group (bio pending)

Alice Caponiti, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Reactor Fleet and Advanced Reactor Deployment, Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy
Christine King, Director of Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN), Idaho National Laboratory
Dr Mike Laufer, CEO Kairos Power

Wildfire Evacuation Planning and Project Citing and Design

The scope, quality and effectiveness of evacuation planning for projects in High Risk and Very High-Risk Fire Hazard severity zones has varied widely around the State. Inadequate plans and the lack of clear and meaningful performance criteria has often prevented lead agencies from making informed decisions on project citing, design and wildfire related mitigation measures, including the number of ingress and egress roads needed to safely evacuate residents.

The same deficient plans have led to developments that, when needed to be evacuated, have new residents interfering with or slowing down evacuations from surrounding communities. Developers have often failed to identify and plan for the use of temporary safe refuge areas in the event residents can’t be evacuated in a timely manner, including as a result of constricted traffic flow in roadways serving the development and surrounding areas.

Law enforcement agencies are charged with executing evacuations, but in many cases, they are not trained and/or an active part of the planning and approval process for new developments. This leads to unrealistic planning and multiple levels of inefficiencies when it comes to real time coordination with incident management.

The evacuation plans themselves as well as the related environmental documentation often do an insufficient job of explaining to the public and decision-makers the specific roles of law enforcement and fire agencies in the event of a fire emergency. This can lead to “real time” inefficiencies, particularly in the case of multi-fire events in a region which draw away agency resources assumed to be available to run evacuations.

Our panel of respected fire experts, all participating on a PCL Working Group on the subject matter for the last few months, will discuss specific legislative proposals they have developed to correct these and other deficiencies In the planning and approval process for projects in high-risk wildfire-prone areas.

The Working Group has taken no position on the issue of whether or not projects should be built in high-risk fire areas. It has proceeded on the assumption that where there are proposals for projects in such areas, planners, decision-makers and the public should be fully informed, pre-project approval, of how the project needs to be cited and designed to ensure it can be successfully evacuated.

Moderator: Kevin Johnson, Board Vice President, Planning and Conservation League


  • Laura Blaul, Officer and Director of the California Fire Safe Council, and former Fire Marshal/Assistant Chief for the Orange County Fire Authority
  • Michael Rohde, CEO and Principal Consultant for Rohde and Associates, a California consulting firm with expertise in fire and emergency planning and wildfire risk management.
  • Charlie Crocker, SVP SaaS Products, Zonehaven Co-Founder
  • Bob Roper, Former Ventura County Fire Chief and Co-Chair of the California Fire Safe Council

AB 2438 and Beyond: bringing CA’s transportation spending into alignment with our Climate and Equity goals

California spends too much money on new roads. AB 2438 (Friedman) would have helped fix that by requiring that the State’s transportation funding streams comply with the California Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure, but it was vetoed. Other bills, AB 2237 (Friedman) and SB 1217 (Allen), explored ways to improve local project prioritization and strengthen the regional sustainable communities strategy planning process, both of which stalled in the legislature.

Join us for a conversation with two of California’s most progressive voices in the legislature on these issues.  We will discuss the challenges in reforming our land use and transportation planning and funding processes and what opportunities there are moving forward to ensure our planning and dollars are spent in alignment with California’s climate and equity goals

Moderator: Matthew Baker, Policy Director, Planning and Conservation League


Creating Paths from Dams to Aquifers

Climate Change has brought with it new weather patterns, increasing the likelihood of both droughts and floods. In 2014, realizing the critical need to replenish and store water in aquifers, the CA legislature brought us the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  This was shortly followed by university research that revealed that the capacity for storing water under the ground far exceeds that of dams and reservoirs and at a vastly reduced cost!

Since then, water utilities, environmentalists and flood control managers have begun demonstrating the multiple benefits of restoring flood plains as natural delivery systems for collecting and sending water to the aquifer. More recently, they have begun to employ imagir technologies, developed several years ago, to pinpoint areas where water can be absorbed from the surface and quickly flow to the aquifer. Today, a few forward-thinking water professionals are adding a watershed approach, using dams and reservoirs to hold water when appropriate, but sending it to the aquifer when weather forecasters tell us an aquatic storm or rapid snow melt is expected.

Moderator: Roger Dickinson: Retired Assembly Member, Policy Director, CivicWell


  • Julie Renter, President, River Partners
  • Matt Zidar, Water Resources Manager, San Joaquin County Public Works
  • Kamyar Guivetchi, Manager, Division of Planning, California Dept. of Water Resources
  • Ajay Goyal, Manager of Statewide Infrastructure Investigations, California Dept. of Water Resources

Updating California Water Laws in the Face of Droughts/Climate Change #2

California’s current system of water laws is ill-equipped to respond to long-term droughts/climate change. Already one million Californians do not have safe drinking water. California’s aquatic ecosystems are in crisis, and users are confronting increasingly scarce and unpredictable water supplies.

Over 2 years ago, PCL began assembling a group of eight top California water law and policy experts who pledged their time to help develop what resulted in 11 new recommendations for water law taking into account the unprecedented conditions facing 21st-century California. 3 of these recommendations became legislation in 2022, and more will be moving forward in the new session. We will discuss the progress that’s been made and the outlook moving forward.

Moderator: Matthew Baker, Policy Director, Planning and Conservation League


  • Rick Frank, Professor of Law, the University of California Davis
  • Jennifer L Harder, Professor of Law, Legal Practice, McGeorge School of Law, the University of the Pacific
  • Michael Claiborne, Directing Attorney, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability

The information provided below is for the 2023 California Environmental Assembly. If you have any questions, please contact us at events@pcl.org. Thank you!

The 2023 Assembly virtual sessions were held once a week each Thursday starting January 19th and ending on February 9th. There were two sessions per day, with the first one starting at 9 am and the second one starting at 10:45 am with the exception of our panels on February 2nd, our first panel that day started at 9 am, our second at 10:45 am, and our third panel started at 12:30 pm and ran until 2 pm (due to accommodating state legislators’ schedules).


Panel 1: Aligning State Mandates with Local Creativity

Panel 2: New Housing Law and Sustainable Communities: What’s working, What’s Not

Panel 3: How Do We Make Massive Methane Emission Reductions Now?

Panel 4: Can Offshore Wind in Federal Waters be Responsible?

Panel 5: Can Modular Nuclear Reactors Help Save The Planet?

Panel 6: Mandatory Success Criteria for Evacuation Plans

Panel 7: AB 2438 and Beyond: bringing CA’s transportation spending into alignment with our Climate and Equity goals

Panel 8: Creating Paths from Dams to Aquifers

Panel 9: Updating California Water Laws in the Face of Droughts/Climate Change #2

Q&A and Chat Logs

Panel #1 Aligning State Mandates with Local Creativity


Panel #2 New Housing Law and Sustainable Communities: What’s Working and What’s Not


Panel #3 Can We Make Massive Methane Reductions Now?

No Chat was posted during the panel  Q&A

Panel #4 Can Offshore Wind In Federal Waters Be Responsible?

No Chat was posted during the panel Q&A

Panel #5 Can Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Help Save the Planet?


Panel #6 Wildfire Evacuation Planning and Project Citing and Design


Panel #7 AB 2438 and Beyond: Bringing CA’s Transportation Spending into Alignment with our Climate and Equity Goals

No Chat was posted during the panel    Q&A

Panel #8 Creating Paths from Dams to Aquifers


Panel #9 Updating California Water Laws in the Face of Droughts and Climate Change



Day One – January 19th:

Panel #1 State Mandates & Local Creativity

Ashley Werner

Beverly Palmer

Ivanka Sanders

Panel #2 Sustainable Housing (No slides presented)

Day Two – January 26th:

Panel #3 Methane

Deborah Gordon

Ken Alex

Scott Kelley

Riley Duren

Panel #4 Offshore Wind

Amber Hewett

Day Three – February 2nd:

Panel #5 Modular Nuclear Reactors

Alice Caponiti

Christine King

Mike Laufer

Panel #6 Fire Evacuation (No slides – see chat log above for panel bullet points)

Panel#7 Transportation Spending (no slides presented)

Day Four – February 9th:

Panel #8 Aquifers

Julie Rentner – River Partners

Aquifer Panel-Kamyar Guivetchi & Ajay Goyal-DWR

Matt Zidar San Jaoquin Cnty

California Water Resources doc with links (Click Here)

Panel #9 Water Law Updates

Updating California Water Laws to Address Drought and Climate Change

Updating California Water Laws—Summary

If you would like to support PCL’s efforts in organizing the 2023 Assembly or our work in general, click here to donate to the organization.

Thank You To Our Sponsors

Gold Sponsors

Chatten-Brown, Carstens & Minteer, LLP
National Wildlife Federation
Sage Sweetwood

Silver Sponsors

Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP

Bronze Sponsors

Mogavero Architects, Inc.
Lozeau Drury, LLP
Mitchell M Tsai, Attorney at Law
Kevin K. Johnson, APLC
Remy Moose Manley, LLP

Emerging Sponsors

Center for Biological Diversity
Marin Conservation League

Contributing Sponsors

Andy Sawyer & Carol Bingham
Environmental Defense Center
Holland & Knight
Monica Hunter
Margie Kay
Valley Land Alliance

Sponsorships Available

2023 PCL Assembly Sponsorship Packet