Governor Gavin Newsom this week urged California lawmakers to toughen the state’s climate and energy targets, releasing a five-point legislative plan that seeks to intensify the governor’s struggle with the state’s powerful, billion-dollar oil industry. promises.
The resolution calls on lawmakers to target more aggressively on state laws that reduce greenhouse gases and increase the use of renewable energy.
Newsom also called for a new law that would establish health and safety buffer zones around new oil and gas wells, restrictions his administration has been trying to bolster the state’s slow-moving regulatory process.
With only three weeks left before lawmakers adjourn for the year, Anthony York, a spokesman for Newsom, said the end of the session offers the governor an opportunity to push climate legislation through the state House.
“The big point is just the nature of the climate crisis,” York said. “It’s gotten worse. We see it taking a toll on our wildfires and our droughts and the impact on energy supplies and our ability to keep the lights on. The governor thinks now is the right time to take bold action.” ”
Newsom’s push is as much an attempt to rally Democrats in the Statehouse to address climate change as it is to grab the big oil companies.
Western States Petroleum Assn spokesman Kevin Slaggle said the outline of the governor’s plan is concerning.
“Climate and energy policy is very important for all of us to implement by sanctions, mandates and these last-minute legislative proposals that are very far-reaching,” Slag said. “What we’ve seen is going to be costly for California families. It’s going to be devastating for a lot of workers and communities, and it’s going to affect a really big part of our economy.”
Newsom last month ran ads in Florida with “freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom from hate and freedom to love” in California in contrast to the state’s restrictive policies on abortion rights and education. The spot fueled speculation nationally about Newsom’s presidential ambitions and cemented the governor’s image beyond California as a Democratic leader to fight back against the GOP.
The union of oil companies in Florida, warning about the cost of Newsom’s climate policies, responded with advertisements of its own.
“We pay $1.65 more for a gallon of gas than you do,” The association said in a video advertisement Which used to run in the market of Miami. “Our electricity rates are twice yours. Gavin Newsom is banning gas cars and shutting down California’s oil production. California can’t stand Gavin Newsom’s ambition. Can Florida?”
The group repeated the same message in a print ad in the Miami Herald.
“We’re trying to talk to them about the costs of these programs and the implications of the restrictions and mandates,” Slag said. “Unable to get his attention in California, we turned to a place where he was focusing on himself: Florida.”
Slag balked at the idea that the $100,000 the association spent on advertisements came back in light of the governor’s last-minute calls for climate and energy legislation.
York said the fight with the industry group is “part and parcel” of the governor’s effort, but he dismissed the notion that its ads influenced his decision to take action.
“The response to these companies that are hurting Californians everyday, generating billions of dollars in profits, is not surprising and not unexpected,” York said.
Newsom made a rare visit to the Democratic caucus meetings in the state Senate and Assembly last week, where he talked about the worsening climate crisis and the need to do more through legislation. When some lawmakers offered a sharp response to his call for a quick three-week turnaround to pass the laws, Newsom warned that history would judge his actions.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Senate Speaker Prof Tame Tony Atkins (D-San Diego) said addressing climate change is a top priority for the Legislature and promised to work closely with the governor in the coming weeks .
“The Assembly appreciates the Governor’s strong stance in favor of bold climate actions, especially as it echoes the steps taken by the Assembly in recent years,” Rendon said in a statement.
Lauren Sanchez, the governor’s senior climate adviser, said a climate bill approved by the US Senate over the weekend would make it easier for the state to cut emissions, in part a tax for Californians buying or leasing rooftop solar panels, electric cars. by extending credit. and electric heat pump.
“We’re very excited about the windfall of the funding,” Sanchez said. “California stands to benefit more than most states.”
Newsom has already set in motion many of the principles of his climate proposal through executive orders or directives to his administration.
The governor is calling on lawmakers to pass bills that reduce greenhouse gases by 55% below 1990 levels by 2030, which would at the same time exceed the current target of 40%.
The governor wants the legislature to pass a goal of achieving statewide carbon neutrality after 2045, which he outlined last month in a letter To the chairman of the California Air Resources Board. Senate Bill 100. According to Approved by former Gov. Jerry Brown and signed into law in 2018, California aims to reach 100% renewable electricity sales by 2045. Newsom wants to add interim targets: 90% by 2035 and 95% by 2040.
His pitch includes asking lawmakers to adopt a law to establish new oil and gas wells and 3,200 feet between homes and schools, and to increase pollution controls for existing wells. last year directed his administration to consider through state rules,
The final point of Newsom’s proposal would direct the Air Resources Board to develop a strategy for removing carbon from the atmosphere that minimizes damage to at-risk neighborhoods – a major priority for environmental justice activists who worry about carbon removal programs. do, would allow fossil fuel plants to continue polluting low-income communities of color.
Newsom has faced pressure from influential environmental groups to ban new oil and gas drilling and phase out fossil fuel extraction in the state since taking office. But the Democratic governor has gone with a more measured approach, taking into account the impact on California’s cities and counties as well as oil workers, who are financially dependent on the petroleum industry.
It’s essential to accelerate the 2030 emissions reduction target and protect communities from oil drilling, said Kasi Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.
“It’s good for the state,” Siegel said. “It’s good for the legislature. It’s good for the governor. It’s good for everyone. It’s the right thing to do.”
Oil companies and trade unions representing workers in the industry have successfully defeated similar efforts by progressive lawmakers to advance the state’s climate agenda.
Assembly member Al Murasuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates) died in 2020 on a state senate committee to establish an oil well buffer zone.
Sen. Henry Stern’s SB 582, which in its strongest form would have required the state to set a goal of reducing greenhouse gases to 80% below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieving net negative emissions by 2035, was held in the Senate for two consecutive years. died over the years. ,
Newsom remained on edge, while environmental advocates in the Legislature fought it alongside the oil industry and unions.
Some legislators have quietly questioned why the governor is joining the fight now as he is branding himself as a climate leader nationally and publicly grappling with the oil industry. Others say that the reasons don’t matter.
“We wouldn’t even have entertained serious climate action if the governor hadn’t taken the initiative here,” Stern (D-Malibu) said. “A lot of important pieces of the governor’s proposal here have failed in our house and they have to bow down if we’re going to change it now.”
York said “the governor is all in.”
“He’s going to be in the front,” York said. “This is his agenda that he wants to get through the Legislature over the next few weeks.”
Times staff writer Sammy Roth contributed to this report.