Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SIERRA CLUB CALIFORNIA’S 2009 REPORT CARD REVEALS BACKSLIDING BY GOVERNOR AND LEGISLATURE

Sierra Club California today published its 2009 Legislative Report Card, exposing a significant deterioration in the performance of Governor Schwarzenegger and the Legislature. "Billionaire developers and fossil-fuel polluters cynically manipulated California’s economic distress to weaken protections for our air, water, and wild places, and our elected officials too often went along," commented Bill Magavern, Director of Sierra Club California.

The report card grades legislators on their votes on 15 bills, chosen for their importance to Sierra Club California. Only five legislators – Senators Corbett, Hancock and Wiggins and Assemblymembers Monning and Skinner -- voted the pro-environment position on all 15, way down from the 42 legislators who scored perfect records last year. 13 of those 15 bills reached Schwarzenegger’s desk, and he sided with the pro-environment position on only two of those.

"Most Californians know that greening our economy with clean energy, safe products and resource preservation will bring us sustainable jobs," Magavern said. "Unfortunately, too many of our politicians are listening more to the money that talks in the Capitol. Weakening environmental safeguards promotes short term profits without stimulating real economic recovery. These rollbacks threaten the health of our children and grandchildren as well as the natural legacy our predecessors handed to us in trust for future generations."

Legislation that would have greened our energy system, preserved our parks and coast, cleaned the air and water, and removed toxins from products either fell short of the needed votes in the legislature or suffered vetoes from Governor Schwarzenegger. Utilities, oil, logging and chemical companies, and big developers poured millions of dollars into lobbying, advertising and campaign contributions in their efforts to thwart Californians’ desire for stronger safeguards for our wildlands, atmosphere and watersheds.

Environmental groups were forced into a defensive posture several times, as these same special interests exploited their inside influence to bypass the normal, public legislative process and jam through measures to carve loopholes in key laws like the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In addition, the water "reform" package passed in the middle of the night included a mix of half measures and a bloated $11.1 billion water bond for the November 2010 ballot that will do little to solve the problems of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The entire report card and Sierra Club California’s latest CAPITOL VOICE newsletter can be found at http://www.sierraclubcalifornia.org

Monday, December 14, 2009

SIERRA CLUB CALIFORNIA ENDORSES 2010 PARKS INITIATIVE

Sacramento — Sierra Club California today endorsed the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010, a proposed statewide initiative slated for the November 2010 ballot, that would provide a stable, reliable and adequate source of funding to protect state parks and conserve wildlife.

“With our state parks facing an insurmountable funding crisis and irreparable damage, it is essential we provide our parks with a sustainable and reliable funding stream,” said Jim Metropulos, Senior Advocate of Sierra Club California. “For years California’s 278 state parks have been an integral public asset that residents and visitors alike enjoyed, and it is imperative we maintain these priceless assets for our children and future generations.”

The State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010 would ensure a dedicated and reliable funding stream for state parks through an $18 annual State Park Access Pass surcharge and, in return, would provide vehicles subject to the surcharge free, year-round admission to state parks.

“We encourage our members to join us in this effort to keep our parks open by helping to gather signatures and ensure that this initiative ultimately succeeds,” said Alan Carlton, Northern California Vice Chair of the Sierra Club California Nevada Regional Conservation Committee.
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Sierra Club California now joins a strong coalition including –California State Parks Foundation, The Trust for Public Land, Save the Redwoods League, Defenders of Wildlife, Surfrider Foundation, California State Park Rangers Association, Audubon California, California State Lifeguard Association and Ocean Conservancy.

To find out more information on how to help volunteer and gather signatures, please visit www.sierraclubcalifornia.org/elections.html.

For more information on the State Parks & Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010 please visit www.yesforstateparks.com.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sierra Club Calfiornia Speaks Up for Greener Vehicles at CARB Meeting Thursday

On Thursday Sierra Club California will give public testimony at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) meeting and urge the Board to foster the growth of new technology that will provide Californians the opportunity to purchase and drive greener vehicles like battery electric cars.

CARB is now working on proposing changes to the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, to implement the state’s global warming law, AB 32. Sierra Club California and our allies are working hard to ensure that these standards are as strong as possible. That’s what we need to significantly clean up California’s air and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While CARB staff have been working hard to strengthen the regulations, we have strong concerns with a policy option just released in the ZEV White Paper that would let the auto industry off the hook by giving them even more time to delay technology advancements and commercialization of zero emission vehicles.

Click here for the ZEV White Paper.

Click here for Sierra Club California’s and the Clean Car Coalition’s response to the policy option we take issue with.

Sierra Club California believes the auto industry has had plenty of time to conform with ZEV regulations. Now is not the time to let up—too much is at stake! NOW is the time to drive innovation and ramp up commercialization of green vehicles to ensure our kids breathe cleaner air, and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. A strong ZEV program will also save us money at the gas pump and create green jobs. And strengthening the ZEV regulations will help California reach our goals of being a national leader in setting rigorous greenhouse gas emission standards, while promoting the advancement of new, cleaner technology.

Let us know what you think about cleaning our air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions coming from our vehicles…

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New draft of global warming rules needs tightening

We are pleased that ARB continues to move forward with implementing the enforceable cap on greenhouse gas emissions set by the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32, and is doing so through an open public process. The preliminary draft regulation, as expected, does not answer the most important question – whether polluters will have to pay for all their emissions – since the Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee has not yet finished its recommendations.

In addition to requiring polluters to pay for their emissions, the final regulation will need to tighten up several loopholes in the draft in order to successfully implement the Global Warming Solutions Act’s limit on greenhouse pollution:

· The draft allows polluters far too liberal use of offsets to buy their way out of reducing their emissions; almost half of all emission reductions could come from such offsets, which would undermine California’s efforts to green our economy and grow jobs in new clean technologies;

· The 3-year compliance period is too long – polluters should have to surrender their emissions permits every year;

· The final rules need to assure that emissions trading does not compromise air quality and environmental justice in communities most affected by industrial pollution;

· ARB should specify how it will enforce its rules swiftly and surely to prevent polluters from getting away with violations as a mere cost of doing business;

· In order to avoid exporting pollution and jobs to other states and countries, ARB should account for all emissions associated with cement imported into California, as it plans to do with electricity.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sierra Club Objects to the Governor’s signing of $11.1 billion Water Bond Boondoggle

SACRAMENTO– Today Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will sign a bill authorizing an $11.1 billion dollar water bond on the ballot in November 2010 for voter approval. The bond is part of a package of water bills passed by the Legislature last week.

While some are calling this a victory, the policy package passed this week is more form than substance. The water package does nothing to reduce water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta or provide for reliable and resilient water resources needed to support a healthy California public, environment, and economy.

Sierra Club California Senior Advocate Jim Metropulos today released the following statement in response to Governor Schwarzenegger’s bill signing:

“Today’s action looks like more of the same from Governor Schwarzenegger,” said Sierra Club California Senior Advocate Jim Metropulos. “It’s sad in this day and age that we have to continue to discuss whether expensive, cumbersome dams and canals are the right solution for California’s water troubles. We don't need 19th-century solutions to today's problems.”

“If approved by the voters, the bond would obligate the state to spend over $800 million yearly in annual debt service. That is $800 million less for schools, social services and parks. It’s mind-boggling that the Legislature and the Governor would approve a pork-laden $11 billion general obligation bond as we are facing yet another General Fund shortfall.”

“Two parts of the plan concern me most: a proposed allocation of several billion in continuous appropriation for water storage, and the proposal to spend money on dams that benefit just a few special interests.”

“We can’t justify spending billions on dams that only benefit a few – especially in today’s fiscal climate. Water conservation, water recycling, stormwater recapture and cleaning up polluted groundwater represent faster and more cost-effective ways to fill our water needs”.

“We have a water crisis today. This proposed bond wastes $3 billion on projects that will take decades to build before producing a single drop of water.”

Today’s bill signing is being held at Friant Dam, outside of Fresno. Just last month, water was released below the dam for the first time in 60 years after two decades of ligation over restoring flows to the dry San Joaquin River.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Clean Energy Advocates Urge Governor Schwarzenegger to Protect Legacy by Signing Crucial Legislation to Prevent Rollback of Climate Rules

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Contact: Jim Metropulos, Sierra Club – (916) 557-1100 x109

LOS ANGELES – Clean energy advocates today urged Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign legislation to increase California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 33%. These bills would protect his legacy by setting the new goal into law, preventing it from being overturned by a legal challenge or a future governor at the stroke of a pen.

"Our state has been a leader in fighting global warming," said Sierra Club California Senior Advocate Jim Metropulos. "These laws are the cornerstone of those efforts. Without permanent protection, the work Governor Schwarzenegger has done to make California a leader in the clean energy economy could be derailed."

Governor Schwarzenegger’s leadership made California’s climate change action possible, and he has called for raising California’s RPS to 33% by 2020, issuing executive orders to create rules using AB32. In 2002, California passed a law establishing RPS, mandating that 20% of the state’s electricity be generated from renewable resources by 2010, followed by AB32, legislation creating the world’s first comprehensive framework of rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, “If all we have is an executive order, then the RPS program could be brought to an abrupt halt by a future governor…Governor Schwarzenegger's vision of California as a global leader in renewable energy development may never be realized,” said Peter Miller, Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“Renewable energy developers need the long-term market certainty that SB14 and AB64 provide,” said Faramarz Nabavi, Deputy Director, California Wind Energy Association (CalWEA). “Current laws prohibit the state to issue rules for a RPS above 20%. That’s why we need the new laws: an administrative order to raise the RPS under AB32 alone could easily be overturned by a new governor or the courts.”

“In order to prevent catastrophic climate disruption, we have to reduce our carbon emissions by 80%,” said Metropulos. “With increasing wildfires and melting glaciers, we can’t afford further delays.”

Friday, August 28, 2009

SIERRA CLUB ACTIVISTS SWARM THE CAPITOL TO BOOST CLEAN ENERGY AND PARKS BILLS

Sierra Club California’s 2009 Lobby Day was a smashing success! Dedicated volunteers from around the state travelled to Sacramento to urge their legislators to ramp up clean energy requirements and preserve our state parks.

On August 23, participants gathered in the Capitol for briefings on how to lobby on the four bills we focused on this year – SB 14 (Simitian) and AB 64 (Krekorian), both of which would require electric utilities to get 33% of their power from clean, renewable sources by 2020, and SB 372 (Kehoe) and SB 679 (Wolk), both of which would establish public processes to protect parks from inappropriate uses.

On August 24, the volunteer lobbyists kept a busy schedule of meetings with legislators and their staff, letting them know that their constituents support greening our electrical grid and protecting parks. Our participants reported very positive results from their meetings, with many saying they were impressed by how interested the legislators were in what Sierra Club California has to say.

Midway through the day, Sierra Club California presented our Byron Sher Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements in environmental protection by California public officials. This year’s honorees are Senator Fran Pavley and Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols (ARB Legislative Director Rob Oglesby accepted the award on Nichols’ behalf). We honored Senator Pavley and Chair Nichols for their path-breaking work in passing and implementing California’s major laws to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Pavley addressed the very appreciative activist group.

It did not take long for our Lobby Day to bear fruit; on August 27 the Assembly Appropriations Committee passed SB 14 and SB 679, so they join SB 372 on the Assembly floor, and Senate Appropriations approved AB 64, which now moves to the Senate floor.

The Sierra Club California staff thanks everyone who participated in this year’s Lobby Day, and we hope to see you again next year.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cleaner Cars in Our Future, Thanks to California and Obama

Statement of Bill Magavern, Director of Sierra Club California

The Environmental Protection Agency today reversed one of the most controversial decisions of the previous administration and granted California the Clean Air Act "waiver" that it and more than a dozen other states need to move forward with their landmark global warming emissions standards for vehicles. Today's announcement will be followed by a rulemaking process for the Obama administration's comprehensive national plan for clean cars.

Granting the waiver will allow California and the other states to move forward with standards for the model years 2009-2016. President Obama recently announced a national standard mirroring California's effort to cut global warming emissions from tailpipes 30 percent by 2016. That standard will be in effect for the model years 2012-2016, during which time California and the other states shall defer to the national standard.

This is a huge win for Sierra Club California and the national effort to reduce the pollution that causes global warming! We were a sponsor of the first-ever law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles (AB 1493, Pavley, 2002), and continued to back it through implementation at the Air Resources Board. We have joined Governor Schwarzenegger many times in calling on USEPA to get out of the way and grant CA the necessary waiver to allow our standards to go into effect, and now President Obama has kept his promise to do exactly that. In fact, he's done even better, by establishing a national GHG standard that is based on the California rules. Later this year, ARB will begin the process of setting tighter standards to continue ratcheting down emissions during the 2017-2025 period.

Obama EPA Paves the Way for Clean Cars

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 30, 2009CONTACT:
Josh Dorner, 202.675.2384

Obama EPA Paves the Way for Clean Cars
Long-Sought Decision on Waiver Allows California,
Other States to Slash Oil Dependence, Tackle Warming

Washington, D.C.--The Environmental Protection Agency today reversed one ofthe most controversial decisions of the previous administration and grantedCalifornia the Clean Air Act "waiver" that it and more than a dozen otherstates need to move forward with their landmark global warming emissionsstandards for vehicles. Today's announcement will be followed by arulemaking process for the Obama administration's comprehensive nationalplan for clean cars.

Granting the waiver will allow California and the other states to moveforward with standards for the model years 2009-2016. President Obamarecently announced a national standard mirroring California's effort to cutglobal warming emissions from tailpipes 30 percent by 2016. That standardwill be in effect for the model years 2012-2016, during which timeCalifornia and the other states shall defer to the national standard.

The Sierra Club plans to present Administrator Jackson with a signed thankyou card from citizens across the country who submitted their photos aspart of testimony urging EPA to approve the waiver. That image can be seenhere: http://action.sierraclub.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=94781.0

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Victory Agaisnt Offshore Oil Drilling

As the statement below from Assemblymember Pedro Nava explains, we have prevailed (for now) in keeping out of the budget the Governor’s proposal to allow new drilling off the Santa Barbara Coast.

Assemblymember Nava worked this issue like I have rarely ever seen a legislator work, tirelessly lobbying his colleagues to reject the PXP drilling proposal.

Sierra Club California’s advocate, Michael Endicott, took the lead for the environmental community inside the Capitol, doing a great job of pointing out the flaws in the proposal.

Bill Magavern

Director

Assemblymember's Pedro Nava's statement

From the Capitol Weekly: Offshore oil drilling, once abhorred, gains in the Capitol

Thursday, June 4, 2009

No Budget Hostages

Environmental, consumer and labor leaders came together this week to call on legislative leaders to resist efforts to use California’s budget crisis to roll back vital safeguards:

June 1, 2009

Assemblywoman Karen Bass
Speaker, California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 219
Sacramento, CA 95814
Senator Darrell Steinberg

President pro Tempore, California State Senate
State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814


Dear Speaker Bass and President pro Tempore Steinberg:

In addressing this year’s budget crisis, you will be faced with heart wrenching decisions that will impact the lives of every Californian. The budget solutions that have been proposed balance the budget entirely on the backs of the most vulnerable in our state. We understand the magnitude and difficulty of the task you face. As you struggle to craft a budget solution, we urge you to reject any attempts to leverage fundamental policy protections.

In every legislative session, business groups sponsor bills to take away the eight-hour day and weaken basic environmental standards. These bills do not make it through the Legislature because they are bad for workers and bad for California. But some are not satisfied by the results of the democratic process and seek to use the urgency of the budget process to leverage policy changes they cannot otherwise win. Rolling back the eight-hour day, taking away meal periods, scaling back environmental protections, or contracting out services without any standards do nothing to balance our budget. Instead, they cut worker pay, jeopardize health and safety, and cause irreparable harm to our communities. We cannot allow our core values as a state to be used as bargaining chips.

Proposals to strip away basic labor and environmental standards hurt the very people who are already being harmed most by the budget. Working people and the poor face drastic cuts to healthcare and social services. These are the same workers who will see their wages cut from an overtime takeaway, will lose their lunch breaks in the face of employer coercion, and will see their neighborhoods polluted if environmental regulations are reversed. In the midst of record unemployment, reckless contracting out simply means more layoffs with less oversight for our tax dollars. These layoffs will hit low-wage workers the hardest and will exacerbate the problem by trapping more families in poverty.

For these reasons, we urge you to reject policy rollbacks as part of any budget deal.

Sincerely,

Angie Wei
Legislative Director, California Labor Federation

Bill Magavern
Director, Sierra Club California

Warner Chabot
CEO, California League of Conservation Voters

Christine Spagnoli
President, Consumer Attorneys of California

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sierra Club Hails Obama Plan for Clean Cars Plan Mirrors Landmark California Effort to Slash Oil Dependence, Emissions

Washington, D.C.--President Obama will tomorrow announce a comprehensive national standard addressing fuel economy and global warming emissions from our cars, trucks, and SUVs. Media reports indicate that the new national standard roughly mirrors the proposed California clean car standards—cutting global warming emissions approximately 30 percent by 2016 and significantly increasing fuel economy This is the first national tailpipe standard for global warming emissions. The administration will also reportedly grant California the Clean Air Act waiver for its clean cars program that it has long been seeking and was unlawfully denied by the Bush administration.

Statement of Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director

"President Obama is putting the pedal to the floor when it comes to slashing our dependence on oil and confronting global warming. Last month the administration closed the books on the Bush era of climate denial once and for all by acknowledging the threat of global warming, and now today they moving forward with a plan that will give new life to the American auto industry and ensure that the next generation of clean, efficient autos will be made right here in the U.S.A

"In addition to dramatically reducing the global warming emissions from our vehicles, this move will slash our dependence on oil and make us more energy independent. Congress put us on the road toward more fuel efficient vehicles two years ago when it passed the first increase in fuel economy standards in more than 30 years. Now President Obama is dramatically accelerating our progress.

"In another clean break with the unlawful and irrational policies of its predecessor, the Obama administration will also reportedly grant California its longstanding request for a Clean Air Act waiver for its landmark clean cars program. This is yet another strong example of the new direction President Obama and EPA Administrator Jackson have taken—one based on the rule of law and sound science, not petty politics.

"Today's announcement is one of the most significant efforts undertaken by any president, ever, to end our addiction to oil and seriously slash our global warming emissions. The speed with which the Obama administration is moving to build the clean energy economy has been breathtaking. President Obama clearly sees the big picture when comes to rebuilding our economy, making the clean energy future a reality, and fighting global warming. "

Click here to read a related article from the LA Times.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Earth Day Community Fundraiser

Sierra Club California was one of the two non-profit organizations that participated in the Golden Bear's 1st Earth Day Community Fundraiser. The event was geared towards benefiting 2 local non-profit organizations that continue to make a positive impact on the community. Sierra Club California's staff and volunteers took turns tending our booth that was equipped with information about the organization and our cause. Golden Bear’s owner, Jonathan Modrow and his staff were the individuals responsible for the successful fundraiser that brought together people around the community; all the proceeds were donated to Sierra Club California and The Volunteers of America.

Close to 600 people attended the event and donated to the two charitable organizations. Sierra Club California would like to extend our appreciation to all the sponsors including Golden Bear, Full Sail Brewing, Burton Snowboard, Hot Italian and also everyone who donated and played a part in making the fundraiser a success.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Renewable Energy bill moves forward


California takes the first step in reforming the state’s renewable portfolio standards law.

On Tuesday March 3, 2009, the Senate’s Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee passed Senate Bill 14 by Senator Joe Simitian. If enacted, SB 14 would increase the required amount of renewable energy sources in California’s portfolio to 33 percent by 2020 and make other necessary reforms to our state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) law.

Current law requires the state to obtain 20 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2010. However, the California Public Utilities Commission reports that in 2007 only 12 percent of the state’s electricity came from renewable resources such as geothermal, solar and wind. The Commission and other interested parties agree that the state’s three investor owned utilities – PG&E, Southern California Edison and SDG&E – will not meet the 2010 deadline and won’t be in compliance with the law until 2013.

Sierra Club California believes that the RPS law needs to upgrade both the targets and the rules under which it operates. Other states have adopted RPS laws and made significant strides in building renewable energy. In 2007 Texas reached a total installed wind capacity of over 5000 megawatts. In that same year California only built about 60 megawatts of wind turbines, a dismal performance. California once led the world in renewable energy and we need to regain our leadership.

Sierra Club California supports many of the proposed reforms to the RPS law under SB 14, including: the adoption of an enforceable minimum 33% RPS for both investor-owned utilities and publicly owned utilities; improvements to the market price structure and program goals for renewables; and implementation of more democratic accountability at the Public Utilities Commission. This is one of our top bills of the year and will be following it closely as it proceeds through the California Legislature.

SB 14 was voted out of the committee with the bare minimum of 6 aye votes. Committee members voting for SB 14, were Senators Padilla, Corbett, Kehoe, Lowenthal, Simitian and Wiggens. Voting against the bill or not voting were Senators Benoit, Calderon, Cox, Strickland, and Wright. It was disappointing to see Senator Strickland voting against the bill since he is one of the bill’s co-authors and had campaigned in last November’s election as a promoter of clean renewable energy. The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations committee.

Monday, February 23, 2009

First Green Chemistry Implementation Hearing on Tuesday 2/24

On Tuesday I’ll be one of the witnesses at the first legislative hearing on the implementation of the 2-bill “Green Chemistry” package enacted last year by the Legislature and Governor. Sierra Club California supported AB 1879 and SB 509 because of their potential to transform state policy on chemical safeguards. Click here for more information.

For the first time, CA’s executive branch scientists now have the authority to keep consumer products free of harmful substances. The Dept of Toxic Substances Control, and Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, are hard at work on implementation, but most of the tough work lies ahead.

To be successful, CA needs to create a system that can take timely and effective action, informed by sound science, to protect our families from chemical hazards in products. Analyses of multi-media impacts and safer alternatives are crucial, but we can not afford to get bogged down in “ paralysis by analysis.”

Bill Magavern
Director
Sierra Club California

Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials and Assembly Committee on Health Informational Hearing on the Implementation of the California Green Chemistry Initiative; AB 1879 and SB 509

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How Does The Budget Framework Impact Environmental Protections?

The budget agreement reached by legislative leaders and the governor includes $15.8 billion in spending cuts, $14.3 billion in new taxes (including a 12 cent increase in the gas tax, 1% increase in sales tax, and .5% increase vehicle license fee, amongst others), and $10.9 billion in borrowing. Assuming that the proposal passes the Senate and Assembly this weekend – and passage is still in doubt -- portions of the deal will need to go to the voters for approval, likely on a special election later this year.

Given these serious funding cuts, and the myriad demands by Republican legislators to suspend or delay environmental protections, how did the environment fare in the final deal?

Smoke from diesel off-road vehicles is a major source of pollution, and delaying these new protections prevents us from cleaning up this serious threat to public health.

The biggest financial hit is to transit funding. The proposal suspends all state support for local transit for the remainder of 2009, as well as next year. The program remains, but has been totally de-funded. This brings the transit funding cuts from the last two budgets to about $3 billion.

Department of Fish and Game takes a $30 million dollar hit as a “loan” to the general fund. This could have the effect of jeopardizing an additional $30 million in federal matching funds.

Exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act, and truncated permit review, for eight road building projects. Although the worst of the proposed road building exemptions were eliminated, several smaller projects were included in the final deal.

The California Conservation Corp, a very popular and successful program that had been proposed for elimination, was saved.

The Williamson Act for preservation of agricultural land was restored.

Perhaps just as notable as what is included in the budget is how many of the Republican demands did not end up in the budget, including:

-Hobbling the Air Resources Board with red tape;
-Preventing the use of CEQA to address greenhouse gas pollution;
-Weakening protections from pesticides; and
-Far more sweeping exemptions for road construction projects.

While this was a terrible way to develop a budget – by 5 people in total secrecy – there is one other upside. The proposed budget framework would cover the remainder of this year as well as next fiscal year (2009-10). So we will not have a repeat of this hostage-taking scenario later this summer.

Although there is a lot not to like about this budget deal, and much of the next few years will need to focus on undoing some of the damage, we appreciate Senator Steinberg and Speaker Bass’ extraordinary efforts to minimize the damage, given an untenable situation.

Reform of the budget process – especially the elimination of the 2/3 requirement for passing budgets and taxes -- is desperately needed to prevent this kind of fiscal blackmail from happening again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Getting Clean Power Plugged In


Today’s packed Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications hearing showed just how many people hope to bring more clean power to California.

Right now is our best chance to give California’s clean-energy future a solid foundation. That’s why our state’s renewable portfolio standard should be at least 33 percent by 2020.

We can make that standard even stronger by requiring that newly generated power come from truly clean sources. It just makes sense to consider the potential impacts of building new dams and hydroelectric facilities, or of converting waste into energy. These proposals have a price tag that will be paid not only by ratepayers, but by California’s wild rivers and clean air.

Now is also a great time to start thinking about an enforcement strategy for bringing California into the clean-energy future. As Senator Simitian mentioned while defending the bill, California’s Public Utilities Commission never has issued a single penalty for utilities that fail to meet state standards for new renewable power. Not one.

That’s why it’s a good time to hold those commissioners to a higher standard as well, with regard to conflict-of-interest. We can’t continue the revolving-door policy that encourages the regulated to become the regulators.

Sierra Club California pledges to continue working with Sen. Simitian and the committee to improve SB 14 and to bring cleaner energy to all Californians.
Read Sierra Club California's full letter to the committee.
photo courtesy US Dept. of Energy