After a highly productive session in the 2006 election year established key new safeguards for the global climate and human health, this year has seen far fewer major new laws enacted to protect
Bright spots included flood protection, clean air, and endangered species protection. A package of bills negotiated by the Legislature and Governor finally starts to bring some sense to development in flood-prone areas. SB 5 (Machado) requires the state to prepare a Central Valley Flood Protection Plan by 2012. AB 5 (Wolk) reforms, restructures and renames the state Reclamation Board, which is the agency in charge of flood protection in the
The Healthy Heart and Lung Act, AB 233 (Jones), sponsored by Sierra Club California and American Lung Association of California, will improve enforcement of rules that limit toxic diesel emissions, and SB 719 (Machado) will, at long last, reform the San Joaquin Valley’s lackluster Air Pollution Control District by adding expertise and urban representation. AB 118 (Núñez) will raise about $150 million annually for clean fuel and clean air programs.
Governor Schwarzenegger surprised many observers by signing AB 821 (Nava) to require the use of non-lead bullets when hunting big game within the range of the endangered California condor. This state icon is suffering from lead poisoning, because the birds eat bullet fragments when scavenging carcasses.
Speaking of poisons, the Governor has opened a Green Chemistry Initiative to reduce human exposure to toxic chemicals, most of which currently come into our
Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed important bills to make our buildings and fuels greener. AB 888 (Lieu) would have set green building standards for commercial buildings, starting in 2013. AB 1058 (Laird) would have set green building standards for new residential construction, and AB 35 (Ruskin) would have required CAL-EPA to set sustainable building standards for the construction and renovation of state buildings. SB 210 (Kehoe) would have required the adoption of a low-carbon fuel standard by 2010 that achieved at least a 10 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and maintained or improved upon air quality benefits gained by current gasoline and diesel fuel standards.
The Legislature deferred until next year the vital tasks of spurring smart growth, requiring utilities to generate more power from renewables, and cleaning up the filthy air at the mega-ports of
The Legislature’s failure to pass these important bills, along with the Governor’s vetoes of some of the bills passed by lawmakers, leave substantial unfinished business to be taken up next year. Since 2008 is an election year, and our elected officials know that protecting our health and ecology is very popular with voters, we have reason to expect more progress next year.