Legislative Wrap-Up: What does it all mean for Climate and Air Quality?

With the arrival of cooler weather, the California Legislature has wrapped up for the year and vacated the Capitol. This session has been a tough one for many climate and clean air priorities as many bills failed to gather enough support to pass the floor vote. At the same time, there have been several hard-fought wins that will result in investing a billion dollars into clean transportation and air quality improvements and also improving transparency around corporate GHG emissions. 

Victory for Climate Disclosures

Those following the legislative session closely have heard of the two climate champion bills, SB 253 by Senator Weiner and SB 261 by Senator Stern. These bills would require corporations to disclose their Scope 1, 2, and 3 GHG emissions and also report on their climate-related financial risk and the measures they plan to undertake to mitigate it, respectively. While these bills seem like simple measures to improve corporate climate transparency, many business lobbies fought tooth and nail to kill these bills on the Assembly floor. In particular, the opposition was not thrilled to be required to disclose their Scope 3 GHG emissions, which are the total emissions from a corporation’s supply chain. However, despite the strong opposition, the perseverance of the authors and supporters – including the environmental community and more enlightened business groups — helped the bills pass through the finish line and head to the desk of Governor Newsom, who has already publicly committed to signing them. We express our sincere thanks to the Governor and all of the legislators who were crucial to getting the bills passed and hope that this is the first step of many in tackling corporate emissions. 

We urge the Governor to also sign AB 1167 by Assemblymember Carrillo into law. This bill will hold oil companies accountable by requiring them to pay for the cost of plugging up a well instead of simply abandoning them and letting them leak dangerous pollutants into our air and water. California continues to have over 35,000 idle oil wells that leak methane and other pollutants into the ecosystem, causing asthma-like symptoms and disproportionately affecting people of color or low-income communities. If Governor Newsom signs this bill into law, it will hold oil companies, instead of the California taxpayers, financially accountable for the oil wells they abandon and the pollution they produce.

No Progress on Aligning Climate and Transportation

The Coalition for Clean Air has long been working with Assemblymember Laura Friedman to ensure that our climate efforts and transportation investments are aligned, as multiple state reports have shown that this is not the case. Last year, we worked to support the bill AB 2438, which passed through the legislative process but was vetoed by the Governor at the last minute. The author’s office addressed the Governor’s criticisms and worked closely with the opposition to reintroduce the bill this year as AB 7. AB 7 would have codified the principles of the Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure (CAPTI), a plan developed as a result of Governor Newsom’s executive order to ensure that California’s work on climate and transportation issues is aligned. 

AB 7 was set to pass out of the Senate and Assembly and appear on the Governor’s desk yet again. But mixed signals from the Governor’s staff, combined with the resistance of road-paving special interests, left the author caught between a rock and a hard place, so she made the difficult decision to turn AB 7 into a 2-year bill and use the extra time to negotiate with the opposition and the Governor’s office. 

Clean Transportation and Air Funding Reauthorized

The Coalition for Clean Air has been closely involved in the passage of AB 126 (earlier known as AB 241), to reauthorize funding for three key clean air and transportation programs. These existing programs, titled the Clean Transportation Program, Air Quality Improvement Program, and Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program, invest in building zero-emission infrastructure, fund various air quality improvement projects, and offer a scrap-and-replace program for Californians to switch from a polluting vehicle to a cleaner one. This bill was a top priority for CCA as the funding would have expired if it failed to pass this year. Despite the strong opposition from hydrogen lobbyists, who sought higher hydrogen infrastructure funding guarantees than they eventually secured, the bill passed through both floors at the last minute and will soon be signed by the Governor. We would like to thank all of our members who called and emailed their legislators to ask for their support. This great win for air quality and climate could not have happened without such broad support!

What’s next?

Now that the bills have passed the floor vote and are out of the legislator’s hands, the Governor has until October 14th to sign them. If you would like to support any of the top priorities, please consider emailing or calling Governor Newsom to urge him to sign these bills into law. Click here for information on how to contact the Governor. If you have questions about any of the above bills, please contact us at sofia@ccair.org.


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