California legislators unveil measures to combat climate change

Repost from The Santa Cruz Sentinal

Proposals unveiled to combat climate change

By Paul Rogers, Bay Area News Group, 02/10/15

SACRAMENTO >> California lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a package of bills to significantly expand renewable energy use in California, cut gasoline use by 50 percent and require the state’s major government pension funds to sell off investments in coal companies.

The four measures, proposed by Democratic leaders in the state Senate, mirror many of the goals set out by Gov. Jerry Brown in his State of the State speech last month. Opposed by oil companies and praised by environmental groups, the bills would extend California — which already had the nation’s toughest climate and renewable energy laws — to a new level in setting environmental policy for other states.

“We need to move the state away from fossil fuels, away from the grip of oil,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. “This is common sense climate policy.

Given that Democrats have large majorities in both the Senate and the Assembly, their prospects for passage are considered high.

The bills were introduced Tuesday at an afternoon news conference in Sacramento.

They are:

SB 350 (By Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco) >> Would require that by 2030, California utilities generate at least 50 percent of their electricity from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, an increase from the current law which requires 33 percent renewable by 2020, and which the utilities are now on target to meet. The bill also would require state agencies to toughen building standards to require a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency in buildings from now until 2030. And it would require the California Air Resources Board to reduce petroleum use by cars and trucks by 50 percent from now until 2030, most likely through rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles, new incentives for electric vehicle purchases and rules requiring lower carbon content of petroleum fuels.

SB 185 (DeLeon) >> Would require that the California Public Employees Retirement System and the State Teacher’s Retirement System divest from companies with 50 percent or more of their revenues in coal mining or coal burning. CalPERS alone has assets of $295 billion, yet only has coal holdings totaling less than 1 percent of that amount, or $167 million.

SB 32 (Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) >> Extends California’s landmark climate law, AB 32. The current law, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, requires California to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a reduction of about 20 percent from “business as usual.” The state is on target to meet that goal. The new bill would go much further, locking into law a goal that Schwarzenegger had set: cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The bill, if passed, would require the California Air Resources Board to set new rules to meet the standards, and likely would involve further crackdowns and fees on the oil industry, petroleum power plants and gas-burning vehicles, with more incentives for renewable energy and electric vehicles.

SB 189 (Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego) >> Would establish a seven-member expert committee to advise and inform annually the Legislature annual on clean energy and climate policies that could create jobs and spread economic benefits to all economic levels of society.

Although many industry leaders were waiting for the formal rollout of the bills to comment, billionaire Tom Steyer, a former San Francisco hedge fund manager who has helped fund efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and other air pollution, praised the measures.

“These are achievable policy proposals that will create good-paying green jobs here in California, mitigate the impact of climate change, and leave a cleaner, safer, more stable world for the next generation,” Steyer said.

“At a time when our state is faced with the choice between moving backwards by accepting the fossil fuel industry’s status quo or embracing a clean energy future for our state, this new legislative package includes commonsense proposals that will move California forward.”