Capitol Alert

Senate leader casts environmental package as jobs bill

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León prepares to speak at a news conference in Sacramento on Tuesday, where he announced a new legislative package that includes measures to cut petroleum use in half by 2030 and to expand, from one-third to one-half, the proportion of electricity California derives from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León prepares to speak at a news conference in Sacramento on Tuesday, where he announced a new legislative package that includes measures to cut petroleum use in half by 2030 and to expand, from one-third to one-half, the proportion of electricity California derives from renewable sources such as wind and solar. dsiders@sacbee.com

One month after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed dramatically expanding California’s greenhouse gas reduction laws, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León announced legislation Tuesday to enact the proposal.

In a move to blunt opposition from business interests and moderate Democrats, de León cast the package of environmental measures as a jobs program.

The legislative package includes measures to cut petroleum use in half by 2030 and to expand, from one-third to one-half, the proportion of electricity California derives from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

De León, accompanied at a news conference by labor leaders and employees of green-tech companies – some of them in hard hats – said the goal is to “make sure California keeps leading in building the new economy of tomorrow.”

He said, “We need to move the state away from fossil fuels and free consumers from the grip of oil prices.”

If adopted, the legislation would dramatically expand upon Assembly Bill 32, the 2006 landmark law that requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. One of Tuesday’s measures, by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and another bill would require California’s pension funds to shed their holdings in coal.

The legislation has exposed traditional fault lines of climate policy debates in California: Environmentalists cheered the measures, while utilities and business interests expressed reservations.

Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, called the proposal “blatant coastal elitism at its worst,” saying in a prepared statement that it would kill “thousands of blue- and white-collar jobs in the Central Valley, as well as mountain and inland regions.”

“Instead of cherry-picking job creation in favored industries benefiting wealthy areas, we should be growing jobs in impoverished communities that continue to suffer from disgracefully high unemployment rates,” Vidak said.

The environmental package will likely be more difficult to pass in the Assembly than in the Senate. In the lower house, Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, said lawmakers are considering a variety of bills and will “see how this percolates.”

To build political support, he said, “I think it’s important that we make the economic argument, the jobs argument.”

California utilities have pushed back against including the 50 percent renewable target in the state’s existing regulatory framework, as de León proposed, arguing for a more flexible approach. The pro tem appears open to amending the legislation, declining to rule out, for example, crediting utilities for existing hydroelectric power sources that do not currently count toward their renewable energy goals.

“Let the conversations and dialogue commence,” he said.

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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