PCL in the News
Will California Take This Small, but Important Step Toward a More Equitable Water Rights System?
By Dr. Amanda Fencl, September 26, 2023
Earlier this summer, I wrote about three bills that were poised to make long overdue changes to California’s outdated and inequitable water rights system. Whether you call it updating, modernizing, or reforming, changes to the water rights system have long been considered a political third rail—the electric kind you don’t touch. Read the full blog post.
Sort out water rights
By Rachel Becker, September 11, 2023
SB 389, by Sen. Ben Allen, a Democrat from Redondo Beach, spells out the state’s powers to investigate even the longest-standing claims to water from California’s rivers and streams. Read the article here.
Lawmakers approve plan to strengthen oversight of California water rights
The Los Angeles Times
Ian James, September 10, 2023
California legislators have passed a bill that aims to close a long-standing loophole in the state’s water laws: Until now, regulators haven’t had clear authority to investigate the water rights of some of the biggest water users. Click here to open the pdf
Jonas Minton, California environmentalist and water-policy expert, dies at 73
The Sacramento Bee
By Dale Kasler, June 25, 2022
As a former deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources, he was instrumental in securing protection for 1,200 miles of California rivers under federal law in 1981. He was the former executive director of the Sacramento Water Forum, a group that brokered a wide-ranging deal in the early 2000s between environmental groups and area water agencies to share the waters of the American River. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Coalition Opposed to Kill Bike Share Bill
California Bicycle Coalition
Twenty organizations write a letter to the Senate Insurance Committee, June 21, 2022
Dear Senator Rubio:
The California Bicycle Coalition, and our partners, oppose AB 371. The bill’s effects do not match its intentions to protect pedestrians. Instead, it will damage the potential of shared bikes and scooters to provide a safe, equitable, and accessible transportation option for California’s disadvantaged communities. It will increase driving and all of the harms associated with such an increase: increased injuries and fatalities from traffic crashes, reduced economic security for low-income people, and worse pollution in already burdened neighborhoods. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Reforming Water Rights in California
Public Policy Institute of California
By Sarah Bardeen, February 28, 2022
Water rights reform has long been the third rail in California politics—that is to say, untouchable. But that may be changing. Recently, the Planning and Conservation League Foundation convened a group of water rights experts to make recommendations to improve the system, and their work is receiving a lot of attention. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Californians Will Be Left High and Dry Due to Byzantine Water Laws
The East County Gazette
By Nate Gartrell, February 25, 2022
There have been reports that California is facing a 21st-century water crisis equipped with 19th-century laws and 20th-century infrastructure. During the latter half of the 1800s, California’s water rights system was created. The system has remained virtually unchanged since the laws enactment, Calmatters reported. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Byzantine Water Laws will Leave Californians High and Dry
Guest Commentary By Professor Richard Frank and Professor Holly Doremus, February 24, 2022
Richard Frank is a professor of environmental practice, who teaches water law at the University of California, Davis, School of Law and Holly Doremus is a professor of environmental regulation, who teaches water law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. These two Water law experts have developed ideas for revising California’s antiquated water laws. Here are some of their recommendations. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Climate crisis and systemic inequities drive push to reform California water laws
Los Angeles Times
By Ian James, February 13, 2022
California’s mountain snowpack is shrinking, and climate change is intensifying the severe drought. Streams have dwindled and reservoirs have declined as vast quantities of water are diverted for farms and cities. Endangered fish are struggling to survive. And in farming areas in the Central Valley, hundreds of families are struggling with dry wells as groundwater levels continue to drop. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Erratic weather requires new water policy approach
By Dan Walters, February 8, 2022
What happened — or didn’t — weatherwise during the last two months starkly reminds us of the erratic nature of California’s vital water supply. After months of severe drought, the state saw record-shattering storms in December, creating a hefty mountain snowpack while replenishing seriously depleted reservoirs. But January, historically a month of heavy precipitation, was bone-dry. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
EXPERTS URGE OVERHAUL OF CALIFORNIA’S ‘ANTIQUATED’ WATER LAWS
By Chuck Abbott, February 4, 2022
As California enters its third year of drought, pressure is mounting for lawmakers to update the state’s antiquated water laws. On Thursday, a coalition of legal experts and retired state officials released a report with a list of suggested reforms, which they say would make California’s water politics more equitable and sustainable as climate change gets worse. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Despite massive public opposition and global pandemic, California barrels forward with its water-stealing Delta Tunnel plan
By Dan Bacher, December 30, 2021
The contract negotiations between the water contractors and Department of Water Resources are a necessary step among a number of others for the state to build the Delta Tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, despite strong opposition to the project by the majority of Californians, including Southern California ratepayers, Northern California Indian Tribes, recreational and commercial fishing groups, Delta residents and businesses, environmental justice communities and many elected officials. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
California drought: Ballot measure would fast-track water projects
Marin Independent Journal
By Paul Rodgers, November 17, 2021
California has not built enough new reservoirs, desalination plants and other water projects because there are too many delays, too many lawsuits and too much red tape. That’s the message from a growing coalition of Central Valley farmers and Southern California desalination supporters who have begun collecting signatures for a statewide ballot measure that would fast-track big water projects and provide billions of dollars to fund them — potentially setting up a major political showdown with environmentalists next year shaped by the state’s ongoing drought. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Opposition Builds to Housing Bills SB9 and 10
Surf Santa Monica
By Tricia Crane, August 12, 2021
Kevin Faulconer just announced that if elected governor in the September 14 recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom, he will veto Senate Bills 9 and 10. During a recent debate Faulconer took aim at the priority of state YIMBY groups; “When we see some of these pieces of legislation that want to eliminate single-family zoning in California, that’s wrong,” Faulconer said. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
$5.5 Billion Fire Prevention and Climate Resiliency Bond Co-Sponsored by Local Senator Passes Senate Natural Resources Committee
March 16, 2021
State Senate Bill 45, which would provide $5.5 billion in bond funding to help California become more resilient to climate change, passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee Tuesday. “We now have eternal fire seasons, water shortages and increased drought, more severe flooding, and increased numbers of extreme heat days that put our residents and our infrastructure at risk,” state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañda Flintridge), one of the bill’s authors, said in a prepared statement. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Water company withdraws desalination proposal as battle over environmental justice heats up
Los Angeles Times
By Rosanna Xia, September 16, 2020
Amid mounting controversy and concerns over environmental justice, California American Water on Wednesday withdrew its application for a desalination project in the small Monterey Bay town of Marina. The proposal had become one of the most fraught issues to come before the California Coastal Commission, which was set to vote Thursday. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Is California serious about environmental justice? This water fight is a test
Los Angeles Times
By Rosanna Xia, September 15, 2020
On a barren stretch of Monterey Bay, in a region desperate for fresh water, an oft-overlooked town has little say in whether a big water company can build a desalination operation right on its shore. Here in Marina, where one-third of the town is low income and many speak little English, industrial facilities have long burdened the landscape. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Transparency Advocates and Environment Defenders Call on California Supreme Court to Review Government Email Deletion Practices
Electronic Frontier Foundation
By Dave Maass, November 5, 2019
In California, as in many states, the public has a right to request public records—government documents that reveal information such as what decisions public officials make, what actions they take, and how they spend our money. But what happens when a government agency starts deleting records faster than a member of the public can ask for them? Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Area elected officials back anti-desal project letter
Monterey County Herald
By Jim Johnson, October 21, 2019
Touting a shift in local politics and a preferable alternative, more than two dozen area elected officials signed on to a letter to the Coastal Commission calling for denial of the California American Water desalination project. At a Public Water Now rally at Colton Hall in Monterey Monday morning that drew several dozen attendees, more than a dozen of those officials blasted what they called Cal Am’s expensive and environmentally damaging desal project. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
James Gallagher’s housing bill heads to final Senate vote
By Robin Epley, August 27, 2019
Assemblyman James Gallagher’s Camp Fire housing bill was moved out of the Senate Appropriations Committee without a vote Monday, and instead passed directly to a floor vote, which is expected to take place sometime in the next week or two, staff said. Assembly Bill 430 seeks to establish a streamlined approval process for residential and mixed-use developments within Biggs, Corning, Gridley, Live Oak, Oroville, Orland, Willows and Yuba City — exempting the projects from a lengthy review process under the California Environmental Quality Act. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
These California Environmental Bills Made It to the Next Round
By Kevin Stark, June 3, 2019
For California bills and their sponsors, Friday was pass-or-die time in the Legislature. It’s an annual rite of spring: If on a certain date proposed bills don’t pass out of their house of origin, be it the Assembly or the Senate, they die for the year. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Committee Votes to Move David Bernhardt’s Nomination as Interior Secretary to Full Senate Vote
By Dan Bacher, April 8, 2019
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 4 voted 14-6 to move the nomination of Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former Westlands Water District, and oil industry lobbyist, to a full Senate vote, setting the stage for a contentious and heated debate. In his lobbying disclosures, Bernhardt has listed “potential legislation regarding the Bureau of Reclamation and the Endangered Species Act” under his specific lobbying areas, including trying to minimize protections for endangered salmon, Delta smelt and other fish populations. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Bernhardt advances to full Senate vote despite questions of blatant corruption
Red, Green, and Blue
By Dan Bacher, April 5, 2019
In his lobbying disclosures, Bernhardt has listed “potential legislation regarding the Bureau of Reclamation and the Endangered Species Act” under his specific lobbying areas, including trying to minimize protections for endangered salmon, Delta smelt and other fish populations. According to a story I broke here in January, a fish survey that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) conducts every autumn turned up zero Delta smelt — the very same fish that Bernhardt is trying to strip protections for — throughout the monitoring sites in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in September, October, November and December 2018. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Environmentalists Say They Were Shut Out of Talks on Building Housing Faster
San Francisco Public Press
By Kevin Stark, April 1, 2019
Both the California builders’ lobby and the state’s largest trade union for construction workers backed Gavin Newsom’s campaign for governor. When the Democrat won in a predictable landslide in November, they proceeded with a common purpose: to knock down barriers to fast housing construction — among them the state’s primary environmental law. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Should CEQA Reform be Given a “Fair Hearing?” PART II
By David Kersten, March 28, 2019
The accidental result of the new UC Berkeley academic studies and testimony presented at the March 12 joint legislative hearing appeared to clearly implicate CEQA as a major driver of the state’s skyrocketing housing development costs. The first panel was intended to give an overview of CEQA and its streamlining provisions. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
A dark ethical cloud hangs over David Bernhardt, groups and Winnemem Wintu warn Feinstein
The San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center
By Dan Bacher, March 26, 2019
The fight to stop the confirmation of David Bernhardt as Trump’s Interior Secretary heated up this week with the delivery of a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein by a coalition of groups and a California Tribe. The coalition of California fishing groups, conservation organizations, and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe on March 19 sent the letter to Feinstein seeking an investigation and public disclosure of acting interior secretary Bernhardt’s role in granting the powerful Westlands Water District a permanent water supply contract. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Environmental photo festival wants your best (Earth) shots
By Melissa Breyer, March 11, 2019
A new photography platform, EarthShot, encourages engagement with the environment, culminating in an epic crowd-based exhibit to be held in California. In 1948, British astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle predicted that when space travel allowed us to glimpse our planet from afar, the view would change us forever. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Tell your Senators: Vote NO on Bernhardt for Interior Secretary (We don’t need another lobbyist)
Red, Green, and Blue
By Dan Bacher, March 11, 2019
In a joint press release, the coalition said, “A brutal confirmation fight is expected soon in the Senate as President Trump has now nominated Bernhardt to permanently lead the Department of the Interior. Bernhardt has served as deputy secretary since early in the Trump administration, and became acting secretary after Ryan Zinke resigned in December 2018 under an ethical cloud.” Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Newsom scales back controversial Delta twin tunnels plan
The Mercury News
By Jane Braxton Little, February 12, 2019
In a major shift in one of the largest proposed public works projects in state history, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced he does not support former Gov. Jerry Brown’s $19 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to make it easier to move water from the north to the south. Newsom, in his first state-of-the-state speech since taking office last month, said he instead will pursue a smaller, one-tunnel plan for the project. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Development plans test a decade-old conservation deal
High Country News
By Jane Braxton Little, February 7, 2019
Tejon Ranch is California wild, a place where mountain lions prey on unsuspecting fawns and storm-twisted trees cling to remote ridges, where California condors soar over bald peaks and Tehachapi slender salamanders hide in the damp leaf litter of secluded canyons. Tejon is also a private working ranch, where cowboys run cattle across an area bigger than Rocky Mountain National Park. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Gov. Newsom must mop up Brown’s water mess
The Sacramento Bee
By Jonas Minton, February 5, 2019
Despite many high priority issues on his plate, one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first tests will be how he deals with California’s water challenges and opportunities. Unfortunately, in the last days of his term Gov. Jerry Brown made a bad bargain with the Trump administration and special interests. Click here tto go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Election 2018: What happened to Proposition 9 in California?
By Steven Rosenberg, November 7, 2018
Did you notice on your ballot Tuesday, Nov. 6, how the statewide measure skip from Proposition 8 to Proposition 11? Whatever happened to Proposition 9? Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Walters: Pay-to-play alive and well in Sacramento
The Mercury News
By Dan Walters, October 20, 2018
Let’s imagine that a business owner wrote a hefty campaign check to a state legislator who agreed, in return, to carry a bill that would directly benefit the contributor. Such a quid pro quo deal would, of course, be illegal bribery that could land both parties in jail. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Proposition 3: An $8.87 billion water and habitat bond
By Jerry Meral and Eric Parfrey, August 23, 2018
California needs a clean, safe and reliable water supply to meet its needs as the population grows and the climate changes. Proposition 3 will provide that water supply for people, agriculture, and our native fish and wildlife. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Full commission ‘engaged’ in CPUC hearing on Cal Am desal project
The Monterey County Herald
By Jim Johnson, August 23, 2018
In a sign of how seriously the state Public Utilities Commission is taking the debate over the future of water supply on the Monterey Peninsula, all five commissioners attended a CPUC oral argument hearing on California American Water’s proposed desalination project in San Francisco on Wednesday. Several of those who attended the hearing said three of the five commissioners asked a number of questions of the parties to the desal project proceeding, and all five appeared “engaged and interested” in the issue. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Plan to split California into three states barred by state Supreme Court
Curbed San Francisco
By Adam Brinklow , July 19, 2018
On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court issued an order removing from the November ballot a voter initiative to divide California into three new states. The measure was the brainchild of Silicon Valley capitalist Tim Draper. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Lawsuit Challenges 3 California Ballot Measure
North Coast Journal
By Kimberly Wear, July 13, 2018
A lawsuit filed with the California Supreme Court this week is challenging the placement of a controversial initiative to divide the state into three on the November ballot less than one month after it was signed off on by the Secretary of State’s Office. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article, the Planning and Conservation League — a nonprofit lobbying group that focuses on environmental and development issues — contends the measure goes beyond the scope of the initiative process by proposing to “revise” the California Constitution, essentially by doing away with it, not just change state law. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Opponents sue to nix ballot measure to split California in 3
By Sophia Bollag, July 10, 2018
Opponents of an initiative to split California into three states asked the state Supreme Court to pull the measure from the ballot, arguing it’s too drastic a change to state government to go through the normal initiative process. A lawsuit filed Monday by the Planning and Conservation League argues major changes to the state’s government structure require approval from two-thirds of the Legislature before going under consideration by voters or a state constitutional convention. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Remove three Californias plan from the ballot, Supreme Court says
By Taryn Luna, July 9, 2018
The California Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of opponents of a plan to divide California into three, saying the measure should not appear on the November ballot. The court instructed Secretary of State Alex Padilla to refrain from putting the measure before voters pending further review, “because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity, and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election…” Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.
Public Weighs in on Proposed CEQA VMT/LOS Changes
By Melanie Curry, March 15, 2018
The Natural Resources Agency held a very short hearing today on proposed updates to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The hearing, which lasted only a half hour, included a brief review of the proposed update, followed by public comment. Click here to go to the website and click here for the pdf version.