California prepares for big climate action after Newsom backs new laws – Orange County Register

California is set to take big swings at promoting renewable energy, curbing corporate emissions, protecting wild places and ensuring livability amid worsening climate change after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed most of the environment-related legislation sent by lawmakers this session.

Of the two dozen major climate and environment bills that reached Newsom’s desk this year, three-quarters had been approved by the Saturday, October 14, deadline.

This “reinforces California’s climate leadership,” said Laura DeHaan, executive director of the environmental group California. But she said it was also important “beyond our borders”, and actions by one of the world’s largest economies would likely trigger similar laws elsewhere.

Newsom has vetoed six important environmental bills in recent weeks. These proposals included making it easier to install power lines on facilities, requiring lead testing in some school water fountains, and “forever” banning chemicals — known as PFAS — from spreading through the environment.

In his statements explaining his objection, the governor pointed to implementation and implementation problems in many of these bills. But he also cited concerns about costs, following a summer budget session during which his office worked with lawmakers to close a $30 billion budget gap.

“The Legislature has sent me bills outside of this budget process that, if enacted, would add nearly $19 billion in uncounted budget costs, $11 billion of which would be current,” Newsom wrote. “With our state facing ongoing economic risks and revenue uncertainty, it is important that we remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications.”

Many of the bills Newsom signed will take effect Jan. 1, with new safeguards against abandoned oil wells, harmful pesticides, water waste and more set to take effect for the new year.

Corporate accountability

The most famous climate bills Newsom signed into law this year would require more transparency and accountability from companies when it comes to how their operations impact our planet.

Under Senate Bill 253, California would become the first state to implement comprehensive policies requiring companies with annual revenues of more than $1 billion to publicly declare how much greenhouse gases they produce by 2025 and how much their entire supply chains produce by 2027.

“Carbon disclosure is a simple but powerful tool in the fight to address climate change,” said Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, who wrote the bill. “When companies are transparent about the full scope of their emissions, they have the tools and incentives to address them.”

Newsom also signed related SB 261, from Sen. Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles, which would require companies with annual revenues of $500 million or more to disclose climate-related financial risks and the measures they have adopted to reduce those risks under that law.

One measure companies have used to offset carbon emissions is purchasing carbon offsets, where, for example, an airline might donate to an organization that plants trees to help offset emissions from its flights. But climate advocates have raised flags about the efficacy of the unregulated $2 billion carbon offset market for years, and newly signed AB 1305 establishes regulations that are the first of their kind in the nation, with new transparency and disclosure requirements for buyers and sellers of carbon offsets.

However, Newsom vetoed another law that would have gone further by exposing companies to legal penalties if they buy or sell “junk offsets” that don’t produce the climate benefits they claim. The governor expressed concerns about “unintended consequences,” including well-meaning companies inadvertently purchasing unwanted offsets and “creating significant disruption in the carbon offsets market, potentially even outside of California.”

Newsom signed the Right to Repair Act, which will make it easier and more affordable for consumers to repair appliances and electronic devices. The law requires manufacturers to provide access, with limits, to the tools, parts, and manuals needed to repair those products. Supporters say that would reduce the amount of hazardous electronic waste that ends up in landfills while saving consumers some money.

Support clean energy

Newsom has signed a number of bills aimed at making it easier for renewable energy projects to move forward in California while making it harder for oil and gas companies to conduct business as usual.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several bills into law this year that will affect oil companies in California.  (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several bills into law this year that will affect oil companies in California. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Under the Orphan Well Prevention Act, oil companies would be required to issue bonds to pay the full cost of plugging oil wells and remediating the area whenever ownership is transferred. The goal of the bill introduced by Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, is to prevent the costs of so-called orphan wells from falling on the state and ultimately taxpayers.

Oil and gas developments also won’t benefit from cuts from a nearly 50-year-old law that requires projects along the coast to obtain special development permits meant to protect the sensitive coastal ecosystem after Newsom signed SB 704 from state Sen. Dave Minn. , D-Irvine.

As for promoting clean energy, state regulators will have to develop a plan by July 1, 2026 to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in large buildings. They must also develop a plan to make ports ready for offshore energy and study the possibility of making offshore wind energy equipment in California. Under another bill Newsom signed, regulators would also have to study the potential of marine wave energy along the California coast and develop a plan to harness it. Regulators must also evaluate the feasibility of installing solar infrastructure in right-of-ways along California highways.

Thanks to AB 1373, California will also soon be able to serve as a central buyer for both offshore wind and geothermal energy. This would help give developers a guaranteed market, which would accelerate projects in both sectors.

But two of the bills Newsom vetoed were intended to speed up the installation of more power lines to carry power from such projects. In remarks about the veto, Newsom wrote that he feared both bills would make the complex permitting process more confusing and might end up making these projects take longer.

Enhance transportation

On transportation, Newsom has approved bills that would promote clean transportation while also helping public transportation deal with the effects of climate change.

The governor signed AB 126 to reauthorize more than $170 million annually in clean transportation funding over the next decade.

New electric school buses line up for service at the Los Angeles Unified school bus lot on Friday, July 29, 2022. A new law sets a goal for schools to purchase only electric buses starting in 2035. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
New electric school buses line up for service at the Los Angeles Unified school bus lot on Friday, July 29, 2022. A new law sets a goal for schools to purchase only electric buses starting in 2035. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California also now has an official goal of making all new school buses purchased in California zero-emission by 2035 after Newsom signed AB 579. School districts say it’s a laudable goal, but it will require a lot of financial support to be possible.

In the wake of the closure of rail services through San Clemente for months due to hill erosion, Newsom signed a bill from state Sen. Katherine Blackspur, D-Encinitas, that would require the rail agency that oversees a 351-mile corridor in Southern California to include projects that increase… Capacity to adapt to climate change in its annual business plans.

Preservation and protection

To help protect California’s wildlife and lands, Newsom signed Min’s SB 337, which codifies an executive order the governor issued three years ago to make California a so-called 30×30 state, committed to preserving at least 30% of its land and shorelines. water by 2030.

Newsom also approved AB 363, which gives the Department of Pesticide Regulation until July 2024 to finish a comprehensive study of how consumer use of pesticides known as neonics affects pollinators, water systems and human health. The bill also requires the ministry to adopt rules for the use of these products by July 2026.

FILE - This archive photo provided by the U.S. National Park Service in November 2014 shows a mountain lion known as P-22, photographed in the Griffith Park area near downtown Los Angeles.  Newsom signed a bill expanding California's ban on the most harmful types of rat poisons to include one called diphacinone.  Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, introduced the bill after the death of P-22, who was found to have rat poison in his system.  (U.S. National Park Service, via AP, file)
FILE – This archive photo provided by the U.S. National Park Service in November 2014 shows a mountain lion known as P-22, photographed in the Griffith Park area near downtown Los Angeles. Newsom signed a bill expanding California’s ban on the most harmful types of rat poisons to include one called diphacinone. Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, introduced the bill after the death of P-22, who was found to have rat poison in his system. (U.S. National Park Service, via AP, file)

A type of rat poison called diphacinone will now be included in the statewide ban, after Newsom signed into law AB 1322 from Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, a Democrat from Glendale. Friedman introduced the bill after the death of a mountain lion known as P-22, which was found to have rat poison in its system.

Mixed signals on the water

Despite the “miracle” water year that just ended, Newsom signed important legislation that will make water conservation a way of life in California.

Under the Friedman Act AB 1572, most businesses and public agencies will not be able to use potable water to maintain ornamental lawns in landscapes. Such uses were temporarily banned during the recent drought, but this law — which does not apply to homes, apartments, sports facilities or cemeteries — makes those rules permanent.

The governor has vetoed three other bills aimed at finding and preventing contaminants in the water.

All schools built before 2010 would have to test for lead in water fountains and faucets if Newsom signs AB 249 from Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena. While Newsom said he supports the concept, he wrote that there are too many issues with implementation, cost and timelines to make the bill possible as written.

Newsom also shot down two bills that would have helped prevent “forever toxic chemicals,” known as PFAS, from reaching water sources.

One, AB 727, would have banned PFAS from cleaning and floor sealing products sold in the state within a few years. But Newsom said a single-product chemical ban like this hasn’t been successful in the past because it “lacks oversight” and causes confusion among manufacturers.

Another bill, AB 1628, from Assemblywoman Tina McInor, D-Inglewood, would have required all washing machines sold in California after Jan. 1, 2029, to use microfiber filtration systems, to prevent microplastics from entering the water supply. Newsom said he is concerned that the bill could result in increased costs for consumers before we have solid research to justify those increases.

For now, Newsom said he encourages, rather than mandates, incentivizing filters or other technologies that can keep microfibers out of wastewater.

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