California green energy bills target gas storage safety, protecting low-income communities

Dive Brief:

  • California lawmakers will consider more than a dozen bills supported by environmental and social justice advocates, including a measure to spend $250 million in underserved communities facing high levels of pollution.
  • Other measures would improve planning efforts to reduce impacts on low-income communities, add seats to the South Coast Air Quality Management District Board, and require the state to continue a prohibition against Southern California Gas injecting natural gas into the Aliso Canyon storage facility until a comprehensive review of gas storage safety is completed. 
  • The measures have the backing of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, which said it supports the "bold climate policies of the Senate leadership."

Dive Insight:

The California Environmental Justice Alliance has issued its 2016 Environmental Justice Legislative Agenda, focusing on climate, land use, budget investments, power plant siting and natural gas storage, among other issues the group says have an outsized impact on disadvantaged communities

“Low-income communities and communities of color have borne a disproportionate burden of pollution for too long, and these policies will equitably reduce emissions in all communities while bringing good jobs to communities that most need them," Strela Cervas, CEJA co-coordinator, said in a statement. "California needs a strong renewable energy mandate to get to 50% renewable energy by 2030 with a clear roadmap to transition off of fossil fuels.”

The slate of bills the group is focusing on includes 14 measures it supports and one it opposes: AB  2292, introduced by Assembly Member Richard Gordon, which would include additional indicators into the California Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool, CalEnviroScreen Version 2.0.

"These indicators are redundant and unattainable," CEJA said. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment "is already updating the tool and this bill results in legislative overreach since it is OEHHA that is charged with protecting public health through scientific evaluation," the group said.

Other measures CEJA supports include AB 1550, which calls for investments in underserved communities. The bill would require the investment plan to allocate a minimum of 25% of the available moneys in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to projects located within, and benefitting individuals living in, disadvantaged communities.

Another bill, AB 1937, would codify an existing rule that, when authorizing new gas power plants, electrical companies must actively seek projects that are not in communities experincing some form of environmental injustice. Conversely, electrical companies must seek projects benefiting such communities. 

“We strongly support the Senate’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases and look forward to working with them to emphasize the health and job-creating benefits of increased reductions directly from sources in California," said Caroline Farrell, executive director of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. "Direct reductions will bring desperately needed air pollution reductions and good jobs, which are particularly important to communities in the Central Valley, who suffer from some of the worst air pollution and highest poverty levels in the country.”

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Filed Under: Regulation & Policy
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