California Senate passes climate change bills

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate

State lawmakers pass bills combatting climate change

By Melody Gutierrez, 4:11 pm, Wednesday, June 3, 2015

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers passed ambitious proposals Wednesday aimed at reaffirming California’s commitment to combatting global warming.

The bills, which still need to be voted on by the full Legislature, would translate into law the framework set by Gov. Jerry Brown in his inaugural speech in January and in an executive order in April that called for lowering the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

The 2030 target expands on the landmark AB32 California Global Warming Solutions Act adopted by the Legislature in 2006, which made the state a world leader in fighting climate change by calling for carbon emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. The state is on track to meet the goals set in that law.

Both houses of the Legislature approved a handful of climate-change bills Wednesday. One bill approved by the Senate was B350, by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, that sets 2030 as the deadline for three big environmental feats: cutting petroleum use in half by reducing driving and increasing the use of fuel-efficient cars; boosting energy efficiency in buildings by 50 percent; and requiring the state to get half of its electricity from renewable sources.

The Senate approved SB350 in a 24-14 vote Wednesday. The bill now heads to the state Assembly.

De Leon said the bill would ensure that California continues to build “the new economy of tomorrow.”

“Let’s get it done. Let’s continue to lead the world,” de Leon said.

The Senate also approved SB185 by de Leon, which calls for the nation’s two largest state pension systems — California’s public employee and teacher retirement systems — to divest from thermal coal. The bill passed 22-14 and heads to the Assembly.

“We’ve already proven we can lower utility bills and rebuild our energy infrastructure, all the while cleaning up the air we breathe into our lungs and reducing our contribution to climate change,” de Leon said.

Many Republicans spoke against the climate-change bills, saying they will increase utility bills for consumers and businesses, and cost working-class jobs.

“We have a very lofty and noble goal, but other than feeling good about it, what has it actually accomplished?” asked Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar (Los Angeles County).

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

California Senate approves legislation to combat global warming

By Jessica Calefati, Bay Area News Group, 06/04/15, 7:00 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO ­­>> The state Senate on Wednesday approved a far-reaching array of bills designed to cement the Golden State’s reputation as an international leader in the fight against climate change.

If enacted, the legislation will trigger a fundamental shift in the kinds of cars and trucks Californians drive and the way they power their homes. New targets would force industries to create more renewable energy, make more vehicles that don’t burn gasoline and further slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Democrats roundly praised the bills, which were inspired by goals Gov. Jerry Brown outlined in his inaugural address. They said the legislation is needed to help the environment and create jobs.

“We’re talking about creating a new economy for tomorrow,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon said.

But Republicans railed against the legislation on the Senate floor. They called it “coastal elitism at its worst” and insisted the proposals would hurt the Central Valley, the region hit hardest by the Great Recession and the devastating four-year drought.

Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, seethed as he told his Democratic colleagues that Senate Bill 350 would “kill thousands of blue and white collar jobs in the Central Valley.” Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, pleaded with her Democratic colleagues to vote no. “I beg you,” she said.

But Democrats refused to budge. “Markets change. We transform. That’s who we are,” said Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys. “Welcome to America, baby!”

Many energy experts say Californians won’t know the true impact of the legislation on their daily lives for many years because the formula needed to achieve these ambitious goals — and the cost of such bold change for taxpayers and business owners — remains murky.

“I’m quite dubious about our ability to accomplish these goals we’re getting so many kudos for setting,” said James Sweeney, director of Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center.

“It’s going to be up to future governors and future lawmakers to make these goals work,” Sweeney said. “Unless we come up with a plan that’s not terribly disruptive to average Californians’ lives, they’re never going to follow through.”

If the legislation becomes law, it will be up to the California Air Resources Control Board to implement two of the measures’ toughest goals: cutting petroleum use by cars and trucks in half over the next 15 years and slashing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels over the next 35 years.

To achieve the first goal, the board has suggested getting Californians to drive less by using more mass transit, dramatically increasing the fuel economy of cars and doubling the use of alternative fuels. But the board has publicized few additional details about how to get there — and that omission makes the legislation impossible to support, opponents say.

“Most of California’s businesses and families rely on petroleum for their day-to-day transportation needs and (the legislation) has the ability to compromise the availability of transportation fuels,” the California Chamber of Commerce wrote last month to lawmakers.

An oil industry trade group said it’s hoping for better luck and a different outcome when the measure is considered by the state Assembly.

“We will continue to educate consumers and businesses on the enormous negative impact the legislation will have on all Californians and hope members of the Assembly are more willing to take a critical look at this legislation than did their counterparts in the Senate,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association.

Along with the dramatic reduction of petroleum in gasoline it requires, Senate Bill 350, sponsored by de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would also require California utilities to generate at least 50 percent of their electricity from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources by 2030 and require state agencies to toughen building standards.

The Senate approved the measure on a 24-14 vote, with all Republicans voting no.

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer was one among many environmental advocates who praised the Senate’s action on the climate package as a “bold step forward” that tackles climate change “head on.”

“We owe it to our kids and our grandkids to protect them, and that means addressing climate change before it’s too late,” Steyer said in a statement.

The Senate’s endorsement of the legislation comes several weeks after Brown signed an agreement between California and 11 other U.S. states and foreign provinces to sharply limit emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.

That same commitment is the backbone of Senate Bill 32, sponsored by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, which would extend California’s landmark climate law, signed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. The new bill — which passed the Senate 22-15 —would lock into law a goal that Schwarzenegger had set: cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by midcentury.

Other pieces of legislation the Senate approved Wednesday would establish a committee to advise the Legislature on climate policies that could create jobs; require that California’s pension funds for teachers and state workers divest from coal companies; and spur farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

California may not know precisely how it will achieve these goals, but UC Berkeley energy expert Dan Kammen said he isn’t worried. He expects the Golden State’s brightest minds to create new technologies to cover any ground we can’t with today’s tools.

“These are decades-long goals,” Kammen said. “The way to get there is to have a strategy that we know we must update and modify as we innovate.”