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Amid Budget and Jobs Concerns, Victories for Public Health, Sharks, Clean Water, Job Stimulus and Energy Efficiency in California’s 2011 Legislative Session
Shark fin ban, drinking water & Native American sacred sites protection, children’s health protection, and enforcement of energy efficiency requirements approved by California Legislature
SACRAMENTO, CA - September 12 - The 2011 California legislative session wrapped-up late Friday night with legislators handing victory to children’s health, job stimulus and energy efficiency – all bills that will play a key role in the environmental health and economic recovery of the State, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“In a legislative session that continued to be dominated by the state budget, jobs and the economy, California’s Legislature made headway in moving forward policies to protect public health, sharks, drinking water supplies and to stimulate the clean energy economy,” said Ann Notthoff, NRDC’s director of California advocacy. “Collectively, these bills promote a healthy environment and a healthy economy that are vital for the State’s recovery.”
The good news: The California legislature passed legislation that prohibits the sale, trade or possession of shark fins in California; voted to protect drinking water and Native American sacred sites by stopping the approval and construction of a new landfill at Gregory Canyon in San Diego County; and banned the use of the chemical bisphenol A in baby bottles and sippy cups, making California the 11th state in the nation to ban BPA. The legislature also passed a bill to improve the enforcement of California’s energy efficiency requirements for household appliances. The push to bring the NFL to Los Angeles resulted in a bill to expedite judicial review and retained full CEQA review with additional environmental requirements.
The bad news: The California legislature failed to pass a bill that would phase out Styrofoam food containers by 2016. Californians alone throw away 300,000 tons of Styrofoam annually – quite a sum for a product that is known for being super lightweight. Besides littering our communities and beaches, Styrofoam also releases toxic substances into the air and water during manufacturing and harms water quality when it makes its way to our waterways. The legislature also failed to pass the Infill Development & Sustainable Community Act, a bill that would have allowed builders more flexibility in the amount of parking spots needed for projects that are close to transit. Reducing the amount of parking that is required would have allowed for more affordable housing to be built in California, and jump start projects that are currently stalled. Reauthorization of the Public Goods Charge, which funds clean energy programs, also stalled.
NRDC’s backgrounder below summarizes this year’s California legislative session highlights. These bills now need only Governor Brown’s signature to be enacted into law:
AB 376: Authored by Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Mountain View) and Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), AB 376 helps to end the cruel practice of shark finning by prohibiting the sale, possession or trade of shark fins in California. The bill was sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance, and supported by thousands of individuals and a broad coalition of diverse groups, including NRDC. More on this here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/lmonroe/
SB 833: Authored by Senator Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and co-author Assembly member Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), this bill would stop the approval of a new landfill at Gregory Canyon in San Diego County. The proposed landfill would threaten drinking water sources for tens of thousands of people and desecrate adjacent Native American sacred sites. In addition, increased recycling, new technologies and the expansion of existing landfills make the proposed landfill unnecessary.
Consumer and Business Protection
SB 454: Authored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica), this bill would improve enforcement of California's energy efficiency standards for appliances such as air conditioners, televisions, refrigerators and light bulbs. SB 454 helps level the playing field for builders, contractors and businesses who are complying with energy efficiency standards by improving enforcement against those who try to skirt the requirements. The bill also ensures that expected energy savings are more fully realized; thereby saving money and reducing pollution.
AB 1319: Co-sponsored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica) and authored by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-El Segundo), this bill would ban the use of the chemical bisphenol A in baby bottles and sippy cups, marking a victory for health and environmental advocates who’ve sought a similar measure since early 2009. If signed into law by Governor Brown, California would be the 11th state in the nation to ban BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups.
SB 292: Authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-San Fernandino Valley), the bill would require developer AEG to achieve national green building, transportation and greenhouse gas reduction standards and meet existing environmental review requirements in return for a speedier schedule for judicial review of legal challenges of its proposal to build a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles. The final bill requires AEG to implement “best in nation” mode shift transportation that’s permanent, and authorizes the City of Los Angeles to enforce it so long as the stadium exists. More on this here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/dpettit/
The 2011 California legislative session officially ended without an extension of the Public Goods Charge (PGC), which is set to expire in January 2012. Bills SB 870 and AB 724, sponsored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-San Fernandino Valley) and Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood), respectively, would have reauthorized collection of the existing Public Goods Charge from California utility customer bills that support a range of investments in RD&D, renewables, and energy efficiency. Legislative options include another effort during a still ongoing special legislative session and a push for action as soon as the legislature reconvenes in January 2012; meanwhile, NRDC and coalition partners will be working with utilities and their regulators to ensure no interruption in a strong collective commitment to clean energy progress.
Bills that were held to next year, the second year of the two-year legislative session:
- AB 591: Oil and Gas Production: Hydraulic Fracturing
- AB 685: Californians’ Right to Clean Drinking Water
- SB 535: California Communities Healthy Air Revitalization Trust
- SB 568: The Sustainable Take-Out Food Packaging Bill (phase out Styrofoam food containers)
- SB 791: Empower regions to develop traffic reduction plans & improve public transit