California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and champions of environmental justice in the state legislature and advocacy community are cheering the recent passage of a series of new laws that increase the state’s efforts to curb climate change in an equitable and just way.
The legislative package, signed on September 16, amid a heat wave that broke temperature and energy demand records, comes as regulators are working to finalize the 2022 Scoping Plan that aims to reduce the state’s carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. The new laws add ambition to California’s climate goals and add environmental justice protections for communities most impacted by fossil fuel pollution.
To secure passage, Newsom worked with legislative leaders to advance key climate proposals aimed at protecting communities most affected by fossil fuel pollution and accelerating the statewide transition to clean energy.
Legislators also approved the governor’s five-year $54 billion climate spending package, with funds for both climate mitigation and adaptation programs. The package includes $6 billion for electric vehicle subsidies; $15 billion for transit, rail, and projects for ports; $8 billion to increase the renewable capacity and reliability of the electric grid; $3 billion for wildfire management; and another $3 billion for water programs in response to the ongoing drought.
The spending package also includes a provision to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, which provides nearly 10 percent of California’s electricity, by five years to 2030.
Wave of New Climate Laws
State lawmakers sent a raft of other climate-related laws to the governor’s desk with last minute amendments before the end of the legislative session on August 31. In September, the governor signed more than 30 climate-related bills including legislation that will:
- Set more ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gasses. The Clean Energy, Jobs, and Affordability Act sets new targets of 90 percent clean electricity by 2035 and 95 percent clean electricity by 2040, advancing the state’s progress towards the existing SB 100 goal of 100 percent clean electricity retail sales by 2045. And the California Climate Crisis Act codifies the state’s target to be carbon neutral no later than 2045.
- Protect communities from fossil fuels. Another law strengthens restrictions on oil and gas drilling by requiring larger distances between new oil wells and homes, schools, childcare facilities, hospitals, and other sensitive locations and establishing tighter pollution controls on existing oil wells. It also requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to publish greenhouse gas emissions on its website. A separate law prohibits oil well operators from using captured carbon dioxide emissions for enhanced oil recovery.
- Regulate carbon capture and storage technologies. A new law requires state agencies to set achievable carbon removal targets for natural and working lands and prioritize nature-based strategies for sequestering carbon. Another law requires CARB to establish a program and regulations to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and viability of carbon capture, removal, utilization, and storage projects.
- Improve implementation of existing climate programs. Another law requires CARB to coordinate with local governments and community-based organizations when implementing the Clean Cars 4 All program, to identify barriers and increase access to clean vehicle incentives for low-income residents. It also calls on CARB and local governments to identify barriers to the program and develop protocols and metrics to implement and assess it. Other laws eliminate parking requirements for new housing developments near transit and establish a new governor-appointed advocate to develop a cross-agency equity plan and coordinate vehicle deployment, infrastructure, and workforce development and simplify programs that incentivize the purchase and use of zero and near-zero carbon emitting vehicles.
Others require: crude oil refineries to report the details of oil refining activities on a monthly basis to state agencies; California cities to provide instant online access to solar permits; and a state commission to determine whether renewable energy subscription programs benefit ratepayers and establish a program to increase access to clean energy to low-income households and renters.
The governor’s support gave a final push to key climate bills that influenced regulators to increase the ambition of the state’s climate strategy in the draft scoping plan, and secure basic protections for overburdened communities that environmental justice advocates have long called for.
Before the September 30 deadline, Newsom signed a total of 997 bills, including new laws ensuring access to reproductive healthcare, advancing transparency for pay-equity, expanding the union rights of fast-food workers and farmworkers, increasing access to lawn placement rebates, and more.
The governor also vetoed bills supported by environmental and climate advocates that would have provided free public transit for K-12 and college students and required CA transportation agencies to align funding programs, including federal highway funding, with state climate goals.