It’s my pleasure to report that this year’s California Environmental Scorecard is now ready for your review at http://ecovote.org/Scorecard >>
The annual Scorecard is our flagship production here at the California League of Conservation Voters, and it’s one of the most powerful accountability tools available to environmental activists and our allies across the movement. It’s a huge undertaking, so before I go any further into the details of the Scorecard, let me first say thank you. It takes all of us working together – from our dedicated staff and board to our thousands of members across the state – to research and produce this high-quality document that can truly be seen as California’s environmental record. Each and every one of you has my gratitude today.
Now, let’s get into the 2015 California Environmental Scorecard. It reveals how members of the state legislature and Governor Jerry Brown performed on the most important environmental and public health bills in the 2015 legislative session.
California’s legislature passed and Governor Jerry Brown signed historic bills that will increase the state’s use of clean, renewable energy to 50% by the year 2030, more equitably distribute the benefits of clean energy to low-income families, ban microbeads from personal care products, automatically register millions more voters, and end California’s illegal ivory trade, among other important bills.
Environmental champions in our legislature and advocates on the ground worked hard to pass clean air and clean energy bills that deliver benefits equitably to all residents, making California the undisputed national environmental leader. Most significantly, Californians made history by passing a first-in-the-nation law, SB 350, committing our state to increasing our use of clean, renewable energy to 50 percent and doubling energy efficiency in our buildings by the year 2030. This progress is possible because of the tremendous outpouring of grassroots support from Californians like you, who know our state can and will rise above the challenges of dirty air, communities at risk from wildfires, and threatened drinking water supplies.
Priority bills that made it to the governor’s desk and were signed into law include:
SB 350 (De León) increases state’s use of renewable energy to 50% and doubles energy efficiency of buildings by 2030;
AB 693 (Eggman) makes benefits of solar power accessible to residents of multifamily housing;
SB 185 (De Leon) requires California’s public pension funds to divest from holdings in thermal coal;
AB 888 (Bloom) bans plastic microbeads in personal care products beginning in 2020;
AB 1461 (Gonzalez) creates a more effective Motor Voter registration program which will automatically register millions more California voters;
AB 1496 (Thurmond) directs the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to develop a program to reduce methane emissions;
AB 1288 (Atkins) adds two environmental justice representatives to the ARB;
AB 744 (Chau) reduces parking minimums for affordable housing near transit;
AB 96 (Atkins) closes loopholes in the state’s ivory trade ban.
These legislative successes are shared by every community in this diverse, beautiful state we call home. Access to clean air, clean water, and the benefits of our transition to cleaner sources of energy are critical to all Californians’ quality of life. SB 350 and AB 693 in particular will democratize the benefits of clean energy and make sure they are implemented equitably across all communities, while AB 1461 will help reverse the trend of Californians disengaging from the political process.
But there was a great deal of unfinished business this year due mostly to the outsized influence of the oil industry. The industry, led by their lobbying arm, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) launched a major, multimillion dollar campaign to strip SB 350 of a provision to reduce petroleum use in California by 50% in the next 15 years, and to stop SB 32 (Pavley) which would have set greenhouse gas reduction limits to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, consistent with the level climate scientists warn will be required to avoid catastrophic climate disruptions.
Both SB 32 and the petroleum reduction provision of SB 350 passed the Senate, but failed to garner enough support in the Assembly. Lobbying reports just filed with the Secretary of State’s office show that from July 1 to September 30 this year, the oil lobby in California spent an astounding $11 million to stop progress on climate and clean air policies, bringing their total spending to $18 million so far in 2015.
One of the most important stories of this legislative session is the rise of what we call the the “Oil Caucus” – a group of Assembly members including Henry Perea, Adam Gray, and Jim Cooper – whose campaigns are funded directly and indirectly by polluter money, and who worked publicly on behalf of industry priorities, often at the expense of their own constituents.
With help from the Oil Caucus, the oil industry was successful at halting other important bills aimed at better regulating its practices, including AB 356 (Williams), SB 248 (Pavley), and SB 484 (Allen), which would have reformed the state’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program by requiring disclosure of chemicals used in well treatments or injections, ensuring that oil and gas projects do not contaminate aquifers containing water suitable for drinking and irrigation, requiring the State Water Board to review aquifer exemption applications, and/or requiring the shutdown of illegal injection wells if regulators fail to shut them down. The industry also notably stopped a bill to protect the coast from oil spills (SB 788, McGuire), despite the fact that California is still recovering from the May 2015 Refugio oil spill, one of the biggest spills in decades.
Despite the amazing progress this year, we must continue to monitor and fight back against the influence of special interests like Big Oil. Polluters are determined to halt our progress on clean air, clean energy, and solutions to climate change, and they have convinced far too many lawmakers to represent their interests rather than voters’ strong environmental values.
CLCV's California Environmental Scorecard is an important tool to help California voters decide if lawmakers represent their values on critical issues like clean drinking water, clean air, climate change, and the preservation of our wild creatures and places. For more than 40 years, our members have used the Scorecard along with our endorsements to determine which candidates will consistently fight to protect all Californian’s rights to a clean and healthy environment and a sustainable future for our children.
Thank you for helping making the Scorecard possible, and thanks for everything you do to protect the environment.
Chief Executive Officer
California League of Conservation Voters