Legislation in 2019: Victories and Vetoes

At the end of a very busy 2019 legislative session, Governor Newsom handed climate activists some notable victories and several disappointments.  A full summary of the results on the bills that Fossil Free California followed can be found here

Let’s first highlight some of the victories. The passage and signing of AB 857(Chiu and Santiago), which allows the formation of public banks, was a major win that provides a beacon of hope for cities and counties that want to align their money with their values. By keeping cities’ money available for local projects, public banks can help finance local initiatives on climate and infrastructure.  Partnerships with public banks should be a boon to community banks and credit unions. The signing of SB 210 (Leyva) at long last means that big trucks will get smog checks – a clear win for our air and climate. And in the fight to keep it in the ground, the signing of AB 342 (Muratsuchi) was a welcome measure that limits drilling for oil on Federal lands.

However, quite a few important bills on which we took positions were either vetoed or held over as two year bills. We will highlight these as areas that need to be addressed in the coming year. Time is of the essence in the climate change fight: we need to take every possible measure to speed up our emissions reductions.

First, it is paramount that we work to limit and rapidly end fossil fuel extraction as well as protect communities from the impacts of drilling.  Another Muratsuchi bill, AB 345, would require a 2,500 foot buffer around all new wells. We will advocate for this two year bill and similar bills in the coming year.

Governor Newsom’s decision to veto SB 1 was the biggest let-down of his first full legislative session. With the Federal administration constantly mounting new threats to the environment, we need to fight to maintain existing environmental protections and protect them from reversal by the Federal government. SB 1 (Atkins) would have made current Federal clean air, climate, clean water, worker safety and endangered species laws enforceable under state law regardless of federal actions.  We support efforts to bring a similar bill back in the coming session.

Other good bills—addressing transportation (a major source of emissions in California), and a bill on solar rights—were not passed. And efforts to weaken the land mark bill SB 100 (de Leon) that mandates 100% clean electricity by 2045 are ongoing and need to be opposed.

Piecemeal legislation is not enough to address the climate crisis. Our state government needs to take a broader approach to bringing down greenhouse gas emissions. That said, legislation is an integral part of the ongoing campaign to implement some version of a Green New Deal and put in place a comprehensive response to the climate crisis.