CIPL’s Week of Advocacy in August (August 10-13) was unlike any in previous years. Instead of meeting in-person in Sacramento to prepare, be briefed and attend legislative meetings, everything was online. The responses from staff and advocates to this were positive: “no carbon emissions expended flying to Sacramento”, “more advocates from different parts of the state could participate”, and “I could stay at home, calmly sipping tea while in a meeting” were common tropes we heard. In addition to three dozen legislative meetings, a Policy Briefing armed advocates with greater knowledge of priority legislation, while “Storytelling from the Heart” helped to form and strengthen their commitment to environmental justice and action.
Due to COVID-19 and the drastic impacts on the California legislature, many very good bills were cut and consideration to COVID-19 recovery and public health were prioritized. Luckily, CIPL’s priority legislation encompassed the inter-connected issues of pollution reduction, public health, safety and justice. AB 345 (Muratsuchi) aimed to create a setback between oil and gas drilling and homes, schools, and places of worship; SB 54/AB 1080 (Gonzalez/Allen) aimed to reduce single-use plastic 75% by 2032; SB 288 (Wiener) aimed to fast-track transportation and safer streets projects, and increase installation of EV charging infrastructure; and AB 841 (Ting) aimed to update HVAC and plumbing systems for schools, and, like SB 288, increase installation of EV charging infrastructure.
The Policy Briefing on August 10 was extremely informative. Dan Jacobson, State Director for Environment California and long-time CIPL colleague gave the briefing on AB 841. He stressed the win-win-win aspect of the bill – cleaner air and water for students, starting with those in schools that are located in under-served communities first; funding for the EV charging infrastructure; and monies already present from the California Public Utilities Commission. Tina Andolina, Legislative Director for Senator Ben Allen, briefed advocates on SB 54/AB 1080, which were two-year bills. A massive coalition, which had been building since 2019, was very active and brought these plastics bills back to the attention of the legislature. Because of the connection to climate change (plastics are made from oil), public health, and ocean and air conservation, the coalition included organizations from the public health, conservation, equity, environmental, and faith sectors.
Kobi Naseck of VISION informed the advocates of the latest with AB 345, also a two-year bill. In addition to the plastics bills, AB 345 was one of the highest-priority bills of a huge coalition led by frontline communities. Nearly 5.5 million Californians – mostly people of color – live within one mile of an oil or gas well, which studies have shown lead to an increased risk of respiratory and cardiac illness, and cancer. Kobi highlighted the public health, economic and environmental and racial justice aspects of the bill, all of which are deeply important to the faith community.
As the end of session neared, it became apparent that COVID-19 would have the last word. Two valuable days were lost in the Senate due to a COVID scare and legislators and their staff were busier and more challenged than ever, dealing with shift to online and phone advocacy.
SB 288 and AB 841 both passed all hurdles and are awaiting signatures from Governor Newsom, who has until September 30 to sign or veto all bills. Very sadly, both AB 345 and the plastics bills did not survive. An unexpected – and shocking – diatribe by Senator Hertzberg in the August 5 Senate Natural Resources committee put an end to AB 345. Last-minute wrangling and time limitations spelled the end of the plastics bills.
While hopeful that SB 288 and AB 841 will be signed into law, many in the faith community – along with our colleagues – are frustrated by the lack of legislative support for two bills that point to the pinnacle of the public health and plastic crises. One ray of sunshine has appeared, however, from the AB 345 efforts – a massive coalition is underway to closely follow and advise the California Geologic Energy Management Division’s rule-making for health and safety buffers. CIPL remains committed to the CalGEM’s rulemaking process, and will follow other strategies for plastic reductions, such as a plastics initiative on the 2022 ballot.
–Post Natural Resources committee vote – https://grist.org/politics/an-oil-well-right-next-to-your-house-the-california-senate-says-thats-ok/
–Post NR committee vote – https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-08-13/setbacks-legislation-california-oil-gas-production-environmental-protections-newsom
–Senator Caballero explains her lack of support – https://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article245207440.html
–City of Arvin protects public health – https://insideclimatenews.org/news/02082020/california-big-oil-environmental-health
Big Oil’s Plan to increase plastic production, targeting Africa – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/30/climate/oil-kenya-africa-plastics-trade.html
Amid downturn in oil, plastics production to increase – https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/21419505/oil-gas-price-plastics-peak-climate-change