State lawmakers pass bills combatting climate change
June 3, 2015 Updated: June 3, 2015 4:11pm
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).
California state senators approved legislation Wednesday intended to help the state tackle climate change by setting new targets for generating renewable energy, reducing gasoline use and increasing energy efficiency in buildings.
The bill, which now goes to the Assembly, advances goals outlined by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year. Although Republicans opposed the measure, which they said would raise costs and stifle business with new regulations, it passed easily in the Democratic-controlled chamber. “These standards are reasonable, achievable and consistent,” said Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). At a press conference after the vote, he described the legislation as the “most far reaching not just in California history, but in U.S. history.” If approved by the Assembly and signed into law, the bill would require California to meet several objectives by 2030 — generating 50% of electricity from renewable sources, doubling energy efficiencies in older buildings and reducing by half the amount of gasoline used on state roads. Democrats tried to rebut concerns about the bill’s potential impact on the economy, saying it would lead to new investment in cleaner technologies. “This bill is not a job killer,” said Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). “It is a major job creator.” De León also said it would lead to cleaner air in areas like the Central Valley, which has some of the state’s most polluted areas. Nonetheless, Republicans called the legislation an example of “coastal elitism,” and questioned whether the targets are achievable. “We have a very lofty and noble goal,” said Senate Republican leader Bob Huff (R-San Dimas). But other than feeling good about it, what does it accomplish?” Senators also approved two other climate bills on Wednesday morning. One of them, SB 32, codifies executive orders issued by Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill would require the state to reduce its emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and then to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The other bill would require the state’s pension funds, the two largest public funds in the country, to divest from coal.