Friday, September 14, 2007

2007 Legislative Session Wraps Up With Some Progress On Energy, Air And Flood Protection, But Puts Off Important Work On Land Use, Ports And Toxics

The California Legislature has sent to the Governor some important bills to make our buildings and fuels greener, save condors and guard against floods, but deferred until next year the vital tasks of spurring smart growth, requiring utilities to generate more power from renewables, reducing toxic chemical hazards and cleaning up the filthy air at the mega-ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.

Bright spots of the 2007 session for the environmental cause included:

• Cleaner Fuels: SB 210 (Kehoe) would require the adoption of a low-carbon fuel standard by 2010 that achieves at least a 10 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and maintains or improves upon air quality benefits gained by current gasoline and diesel fuel standards; AB 118 (Núñez) would raise about $150 million annually for clean fuel and clean air programs.

• Greener Buildings: AB 888 (Lieu) would set green building standards for commercial buildings, starting in 2013. AB 1058 (Laird) would set green building standards for new residential construction. AB 35 (Ruskin) would require CAL-EPA to set sustainable building standards for the construction and renovation of state buildings. AB 1109 (Huffman) would require the adoption of energy efficiency standards for all general purpose lights.

• Flood Protection: SB 5 (Machado) would require the state to prepare a Central Valley Flood Protection Plan by 2012. AB 5 (Wolk) would reform, restructure and rename the state Reclamation Board, which is the agency in charge of flood protection in the Central Valley. AB 70 (Jones) would provide for limited shared contribution between the state and local governments when local governments approve new developments in previously undeveloped areas, and thereby increase property damages resulting from a flood for which the state is liable.

• Clean Air: The Healthy Heart and Lung Act, AB 233 (Jones), sponsored by Sierra Club California and American Lung Association of California, would improve enforcement of rules that limit toxic diesel emissions; SB 719 (Machado) would reform the San Joaquin Valley’s lackluster Air Pollution Control District by adding expertise and urban representation.

• Endangered Species: The endangered California Condor is suffering from lead poisoning, because the birds eat bullet fragments when scavenging carcasses. AB 821 (Nava) would require the use of non-lead bullets when hunting big game within the range of the condor.

We are now asking Governor Schwarzenegger to sign these and other green bills. He has until October 14 to sign or veto the measures on his desk.

Sierra Club California and our allies had pushed the Legislature to act in other vital areas, but many key bills stalled toward the end of session due to opposition from powerful special interests. SB 974 (Lowenthal), the Clean Ports bill, was deferred until January at the request of Governor Schwarzenegger. Both SB 375 (Steinberg), which seeks to reduce vehicular emissions through smarter land use patterns, and SB 411 (Simitian), which would require utilities to generate 33% of their power from renewable sources, failed to clear the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and AB 558 (Feuer), which would have generated information on the use of toxic chemicals, died by a close vote of the Senate Appropriations panel. The Legislature’s failure to pass these important bills leaves substantial unfinished business to be taken up next year.

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