State Legislative Initiatives on Climate You’ll Want to Support

By James Ferguson, SanDiego350

We have known for 50 years or more now that the effect of releasing millions of years of biologically-captured carbon into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels would trap infrared heat radiation. According to James Hansen, formerly the top climate scientist at NASA, our climate is stable when the level of carbon dioxide does not exceed 350 ppm in earth’s atmosphere.

SanDiego350’s Climate Legislation training, July 2017, Hillcrest – Photo by Olga Cortes

This Summer, monitoring stations in the mid-Pacific measured net carbon concentrations at an average of over 400 ppm! This increase in the level of CO2 has raised the average global temperature by 1° Celsius since the dawn of the industrial revolution, with another 0.5° Celsius locked in from greenhouse gases already emitted (due to the lag between when greenhouse gases are emitted and resultant temperature rise).

SanDiego350 (SD350) is a local non-profit group whose name references the 350ppm carbon dioxide level considered safe and mobilizes citizens to take action on the very real and increasingly more evident threat of climate change. This includes promoting legislative action at the State level that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and speed the transition to a clean energy economy.

SD350’s public policy team holds legislative trainings every summer for its team members. This summer, community activists from organizations allied with SD350 were also invited to the training. The trainings cover the nuts and bolts of the state legislative process and practical information on building relationships with elected officials. They also include presentations on climate bills that are working their way through the state Assembly and Senate.

Here are the three top climate bills on the SanDiego350 legislative agenda:

Assembly Bill (AB) 805 SANDAG transportation agency reform: (SD350 supports):

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is constituted by the State Legislature to encourage collaboration between the numerous cities in the region on transportation and other regional issues. It is governed by a Board of Directors composed of mayors, councilmembers, and county supervisors from the region’s 19 local governments. In 2016, SANDAG placed Measure A on the ballot to raise the sales tax by a ½ cent in order to fund $18 billion in transit, freeway, and street projects. SANDAG leadership misled voters by issuing a revenue forecast that it knew was flawed – one that over-estimated revenue that would be allocated to these projects by nearly $5 billion.

AB 805 would modify the voting structures of SANDAG to better represent and reflect the populations served. It would also allow MTS and NCTD to pursue their own financing initiatives so as to ensure public transit is better prioritized. At SANDAG, it would also establish a new audit committee that includes members of the public, requires an independent auditor and annual reports to the legislature, and establishes internal controls to prevent future fraudulent or malfeasant representations.

Finally, a requirement to make SANDAG’s Regional Plan compatible with California’s greenhouse gas reduction objectives should prompt SANDAG to review the current Regional Transportation Plan. In order to close the significant gap between its projected reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and higher reduction levels required by the State Air Resources Board, SANDAG will need to prioritize funding and construction of transit projects.

Proponents believe this reform plan would result in a more effective planning agency to build healthy communities, improve public mobility, quality of life and comply with greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets set by state law. This bill has passed the Assembly and is currently in its final committee in the Senate before a floor vote.

Senate Bill (SB) 100 California Clean Energy Act of 2017 (SD350 supports):

This bill establishes an overall state target of 100% clean energy for California by 2045 by directing the CA Public Utilities Commission, CA Energy Commission, and Air Resources Board to adopt policies and requirements to achieve total reliance on renewable energy and zero carbon resources by that date. It also speeds up the transition to clean energy by increasing the clean energy target for the year 2030 from 50% to 60%, with corresponding adjustments to interim targets.

SB 100 has bipartisan support and creates mechanisms to encourage and enable industrial users to achieve increased reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. While not a marked change from current goals, as the pace of change increases for both technological ability and need for capacity, SB 100 can provide an improved and feasible frame for the planning process going forward for regulatory agencies and other stakeholders.

Senate Bill (SB) 57 Natural Gas Storage Moratorium (SD350 supports)

The methane leak at Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in 2015 in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of L.A. was an environmental disaster of major proportions. While methane constitutes 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and generally leaves the atmosphere within 10 years, it traps 84 times more heat than carbon dioxide does over a 20-year time-frame. The Aliso Canyon leak emitted over 109,000 metric tons of methane over several months according to a report by the California Air Resources Board. This report states that the leak “was responsible for approximately 20 percent of statewide methane emissions, which is more than double the statewide fugitive emissions from oil and gas production”.

SB 57 requires a moratorium on reinjection of natural gasses into the storage facility until the two supervising agencies, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), conducts a full root cause analysis of the causes of the blowout, and corrective actions are taken.

While there has been no evidence of inadequate gas supplies since the facility’s shutdown, this Summer the supervising agencies (DOGGR and CPUC) authorized the SoCalGas company to reopen the Aliso Canyon facility at 28% capacity, which they say is safe. While events have seemed to circumvent SB57, SD350 remains in support of this bill, due to the need to fully identify both the physical, and practice management issues that were responsible for this disaster. And SoCalGas has already been admonished for failure to adhere to safety rules required by the state.

The last action on this bill in the legislature was in May. SD350 would like to see it brought to a vote.

What you can do

There are many opportunities to take action on climate change at the state and local level that can have a far greater impact on our climate future than current federal rhetoric might lead one to believe. California is a leader in demonstrating that effective climate legislation will create business opportunities and spawn thousands of green jobs rather than economic adversity. Readers interested in participating and lending their voice to this urgent effort are encouraged to write, phone, or visit their legislative representatives to lend support to these efforts. Calling your state Senator’s office to support AB 805 and your state Assembly-member to support SB 100 is a good way to start, as both bills have successfully been passed by their originating chamber.

Another great way to make a difference is to get involved with effective, focused advocacy and outreach groups like SD350. Opportunities for community outreach, working on public policy, and networking with other sister organizations are a rewarding way to be a steward for our’s and our children’s future.

Sixteen of the 17 warmest years in the 136-year record all have occurred since 2001, with the exception of 1998. The year 2016 ranks as the warmest on record. Most of us know what warming means here in San Diego – more intense and more frequent wildfires, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and the list goes on.

So call now to urge your state senator to vote for AB 805 and your state Assembly-member to vote for SB 100. Find your representatives here.

State Senators

36th District, Patricia Bates (R) 916-651-4036

38th District, Joel Anderson (R) 916-651-4038

39th District, Toni Atkins (D) 916-651-4039

40th District, Ben Hueso (D) 916-651-4040

State Assemblymembers

71st District, Randy Voepel (R) 916-319-2071

75th District, Marie Waldron (R) 916-319-2075

76th District, Rocky Chavez (R) 916-319-2076

77th District, Brian Maienschein (R) 916-319-2077

78th District, Todd Gloria (D) 916-319-2078

79th District, Shirley Weber (D) 916-319-2079

80th District, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D) 916-319-2080

About the author:

James Ferguson is a new SD350 member, retired Naval Officer, and Nurse Anesthetist. Growing up in Lake Tahoe, he is a lifelong environmentalist. Initiating his college studies in 1975 with a class in “Environmental Chemistry” in which climate change due to greenhouse gasses was considered settled science, he’s amazed we are still talking about it.

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