Earth Day 54, Defeating Big Oil, Cleaning Up Pollution, and Five Bills That Need Your Support

White Climate Action handwritten in green, orange, red, and blue marker: "The Climate Is Changing. So Should We! #ActNow" Behind the sign, are a few partial faces and what appears to be a crowd of people demonstrating.

Earth Day 54: The Right to Clean Air, Water, and a Healthy Environment

It’s been 54 years since the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970—and Mother Nature needs us now more than ever. We can all do our part by getting strong climate bills through our state legislature and made into law. There are lots of worthy bills that need our support. It’s a big year for the climate in Sacramento!

In fact, 2024 could be the year that environmental rights are enshrined in the California Constitution. ACA 16 proposes to add “The people shall have a right to clean air and water and a healthy environment” to our state’s governing document.

Right now, ACA 16 is making its way through the Assembly; it has passed the Natural Resources Committee and is headed to Appropriations. If this bill passes the Assembly, it will go to the Senate; if it passes both houses, the proposed constitutional amendment will be on the November ballot. 

Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania have already passed “green amendments like ACA 16, and many more states have one in the works. 

These green amendments can make a big difference in the outcome of lawsuits like Held v Montana, which made history last year when a judge ruled in favor of young people who accused the state government of violating their constitutional right to a “clean and healthful environment.” The legislature had passed a law that barred agencies from taking climate effects into account when considering new fossil fuel projects. 

Read more about the significance of green amendments here.

Defeating Big Oil, Cleaning Up Pollution: Five Top-Priority Bills That Need Your Support

AB 3233

In August 2023, the California Supreme Court handed the oil industry a big win: it ruled in their favor in Chevron v Monterey. This lawsuit challenged Monterey’s Measure Z, which mandated a phase-out of oil and gas drilling in that county. The court ruled that the measure conflicted with a state law granting the CA Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) the power to approve drilling of new wells. 

The fate of Measure Z has made other municipalities hesitate to enact similar ordinances. That’s why AB 3233 is so important—this bill will clarify state law and affirm the right of local governments to limit or ban oil and gas operations. It will also require CalGEM’s Oil and Gas Supervisor to “minimize harm from oil and gas activities.”

This one’s a must! Read Legal Planet’s excellent explainer to find out more. 

AB 1866

Here’s the problem: idle oil wells are a major source of methane emissions, ground water contamination, and air pollution. And California has about 40,000 of them! Current law allows oil companies to postpone plugging these wells indefinitely just by paying as little as $150 per well. And when the owners of these non-producing wells go bankrupt, it’s up to us taxpayers to cover the cost of plugging—a cost which will run to the billions of dollars. 

AB 1866 will provide a common-sense solution to this problem. It will require oil operators to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to plug all the state’s idle oil wells within the next ten years. And it will require them to prioritize plugging wells within 3,200 feet of where communities live, play and work.

Learn more about AB 1866 here. You can bet the oil companies will be working hard to defeat this bill and avoid having to clean up their own messes!

AB 2535

In California, the single biggest source of climate-warming pollution is the transportation sector—all those tailpipes account for more than 35 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions. So instead of growing our freeway system with more lanes for all vehicles to use, we need to improve it in ways that reduce emissions, especially in communities that are already suffering the health consequences of air pollution.  

We need to stop funding highway expansion of any kind in these impacted communities. In other areas, adding trucks-only or trucks-privileged lanes to freeways can be a good idea. When freight trucks are not stuck in traffic, they don’t put as much diesel exhaust into the air. 

And of course, we need to include freight trucks in the big transition to electric vehicles.

AB 2535 does all these things! This bill will mandate allocation of 50 percent of Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP) funds to zero-emission heavy duty vehicle infrastructure—like charging stations for EV trucks. 

Read more about the benefits of this common-sense bill here.

 SB 1305

This bill will require electricity providers to use Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) to generate some of the power they provide to customers. A VPP is a network of small-scale energy resources—rooftop solar arrays, EV batteries, and smart thermostats, for example—that are coordinated to respond to the needs of the grid. Using “smart grid” technology, VPP operators can quickly reduce energy consumption and deploy additional clean energy supply during peak demand times. 

VPPs cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for power from fossil fuel-powered “peaker plants.” What’s more, they can mean fewer outages, lower energy costs, and more solar energy available when the sun’s not shining. 

Get the details on SB 1305 here.

 SB 1497

This bill’s name says it all—it’s the Polluters Pay Climate Cost Recovery Act. It will direct the CA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a Polluters Pay Climate Fund and assess fees from businesses that are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions through the extraction, protection, and sale of fossil fuels in our state. The fees will be collected from the largest polluters and will be based on the amount of pollution produced. Then the CA EPA will allocate expenditures from the fund to address climate damage. 

SB 1497 is modeled on the federal legislation that created the US EPA’s Superfund program back in 1980. 

Climate-related cleanups will certainly cost in the billions of dollars, and those who did the damage—while making profits in the billions—should pay their fair share. Learn more about SB 1497 here.

Stay tuned!

In May, these and other important climate bills will, if all goes well, come up for a vote on the floor of their “first house”—either the Assembly or the Senate. We’ll be sure to let you know when it’s time to call and email your elected officials and tell them to vote YES for our fossil fuel-free future. 

Author: Editorial Team

Image Credit: Markus Spiske on Pexels

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