Support Climate Action! Get your early bird tickets to SanDiego350’s Sept 21 Gala today!

A Beginner’s Guide to Environmental Legislation

By Janet Yao, Climate Writer & insights from SanDiego350’s Legislative Team’s co-chairs Beth Chopp, Parke Troutman, and Katharine Harrison


We often think of climate activism as people on the streets marching, holding signs, and chanting for change – but climate activism can also look like hours spent on the computer researching policies, talking to local elected officials, and collecting signatures for ballot initiatives. This is the crucial behind the scenes work that SanDiego350’s Legislative Team dedicates their time toward, and it pays off! Although policy work can be a slow process at times, it can be some of the most rewarding work. Seeing a piece of legislation you worked on for years become implemented is a HUGE win! Our Legislative team specializes in working with state and local elected officials to propose and lobby for policies that aim to lessen big corporate’s environmental damage and strengthen environmental regulations. Our Legislative team focuses on state legislation whereas other policy teams focus on making local changes where everyone comes together to make a collective effort. 

For this blog we interviewed SanDiego350’s Legislative Team’s co-chairs Beth Chopp, Parke Troutman, and Katharine Harrison to provide insight on their work in proposing and lobbying for environmental legislations. Beth Chopp joined SD350’s Legislative Team in 2019 and has a professional background in legislative work and now dedicates her time to analyzing environmental legislation at SD350. Parke Troutman has nurtured a lifelong passion for political activism, and joined the team in 2022. Parke has a background in food security politics, and analyzing and mobilizing legislation as a member of the San Diego Public Health Department. Katharine Harrison worked as a high school teacher before joining SD350 in 2021. She supported Youth4Climate for two years while lobbying federal legislators for another organization then moved to the Legislative Team in 2023.

How does SD350 Endorse a Bill?

The state legislative cycle is a two-year session, which is really two one-year sessions joined together that each run from the beginning of the year to September. In the late fall season, SD350 Legislative Team meets with local Assembly members and Senators to determine ideas for the bills and figure out the most important bills to focus on. There can be hundreds of bills to filter through and analyze. Therefore, the legislative team works with other activist groups and coalitions to get their input and ideas to make the final decision for a formal endorsement. At the end of spring, the team works on their top bills to lobby over the summer.

Current Projects

SanDiego350’s Legislative Team is focusing on demanding accountability and compensation from big oil companies for their wide-scale damages to the environment. The proposed bills will require Big Oil companies to monetarily compensate for the damages they have caused to local communities and effectively shut down their activities. The team endorses bills that address various issues such as transportation, oil wells, etc. and makes sure that the bills contain an environmental justice component in addressing how the bills will affect people, not just the environment. Recently, our Legislative team has proposed two, two-year term bills. Bill SB 252 requires divestment of fossil fuels by the state retirement funds for government employees (PERS) and teachers (CalSTRS). Bill SB 1137, which our Youth v. Oil team is advocating for, focusing on banning oil well activities near school zones and hospital areas.

It is shown that low-income and communities of color bear the hardest brunt of environmental disasters and face more difficult living conditions due to their proximity to factories and production plants. It is important to keep this in mind when endorsing bills to make sure that everyone benefits from the bills implementation, and that communities of concern are at the forefront of the conversation.

Six of the eight bills that the Leg Team focused on in 2023 passed, including most importantly a bill that requires large corporations to disclose their emissions. This was a big push from many organizations across the state. It’s gotten to be even more important since passing because the federal government’s new regulations on this matter are much more limited than anticipated and California is taking the lead on this. Our advocacy also helped get a bill introduced in January to reform what would be a damaging change to how electricity bills are calculated, which would further hurt rooftop solar. 

Take Action

As a young person myself, I understand the magnitude of climate change and I want to see a better, more sustainable future. Legislation is a key component to making that future I want to see a reality. There are multiple ways to get involved in grassroot activism for individuals of all ages. Teenagers can partake in SanDiego350’s Youth v. Oil team to learn about the beginner steps to activism while addressing issues affecting local communities (learn more here). If you are interested in reading, writing, researching, and analyzing and want to be part of the climate movement, I urge you to get involved with SanDiego350’s Legislative Team (learn more here).