Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

California’s plastics problem + Clean energy jobs + Homeowners lose insurance to wildfire risk

See which industries will feel the most pain from a China-U.S. trade war

If America and China got tit for tat in a trade war, these are the industries that could be hardest hit.
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If America and China got tit for tat in a trade war, these are the industries that could be hardest hit.

It’s Wednesday, readers! We’re halfway to the weekend, and just a few major deadlines away from the end of session.


On the heels of a recent report that found most Californians are worried about plastic pollution, an environmental advocacy coalition is headed to the Capitol today in support of Assembly Bill 1080 and Senate Bill 54.

The identical proposals would task CalRecycle with enforcing stricter regulations on single-use products and plastics, and would set the ambitious goal of reducing, recycling or composting 75 percent of these items by 2030.

“The (bills) will reduce the amount of single-use packaging and product waste that burdens taxpayers and governments, plagues human and wildlife health, and pollutes the natural environment,” said Dustin Cranor, spokesperson for advocacy group Oceana.

Since China began narrowing the recyclable materials it would take from the United States in recent years, and charging more to do the dirty work, California has had to figure out other ways to manage its salvageable trash.

But it’s not doing too great.

“We used to get paid for the waste that we would give away, now we’re actually having to pay to send off recycled materials,” said one of the authors, state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, during a July 3 committee hearing.

The California recycling chain rePlanet also closed nearly 300 of its doors this month, which left activists calling on lawmakers to help revive the jeopardized industry.

Allen and co-author Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, say consumer habits need to change and laws should be updated.

Ah, but it’s never that easy ⁠ Lawmakers and critics have argued that the bill hands too much power to CalRecycle. They also said that the goals might be too lofty, given unknowns in the market.

“Negotiations continue,” the bill analysis notes. “This is an an ambitious bill intended to reduce the proliferation of plastic waste in the environment and revolutionize the way we sell, purchase and ship and receive packaged products in California. Some differences still remain regarding the scope, timing, and specifics of the requirements in the bill.”

Both Allen and Gonzalez are scheduled to join local government representatives, waste haulers, small businesses and environmental representatives on the West Steps of the Capitol this morning at 11:30 a.m.


California’s clean energy efforts received a 5-star review on Tuesday from E2, a coalition of business leaders that advocates for better environmental policies.

The coalition released its 2019 Clean Jobs Report yesterday that found the Golden State is home to more than 500,000 clean energy workers, more than any other state.

It also found that one out of every seven of the United States’ clean energy jobs is located in California. The hundreds of thousands of workers are scattered throughout the state working in industries to advance energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean vehicle initiatives.

“Year after year, clean energy provides immense value to the California economy – creating thousands of good-paying jobs, protecting the environment for future growth, and attracting billions in investments” said Andy Wunder, E2’s western states advocate. “California lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure those jobs, and the state’s clean energy economy, continue to grow by strengthening and implementing forward-looking policies.”

Most of the jobs are located in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego metros, though Central Valley and coastal counties also account for a significant portion of clean energy posts.

The workforce is diverse, too. A quarter of the workers are employed by small businesses with fewer than five employees, 40 percent live outside major cities and close to 10 percent are military veterans.

Despite its glowing report, E2 urges California to more aggressively work to reach its carbon reduction targets.

“State lawmakers should advance policy that allows for full integration of the Western electric grid to open new markets for California’s clean energy resources and reduce customer bills,” the report noted. “They should also increase and ensure ongoing, stable funding for clean vehicle incentives.”


Nearly 350,000 rural homeowners living in fire-prone areas were dropped by insurance companies in just four years, according to staff at the Department of Insurance.

“The non-renewals increased by 6 percent last year, translating into 88,187 homeowners forced to find replacement coverage in 2018 alone — often at much higher prices,” wrote The Bee’s Ryan Sabalow and Dale Kasler. “By comparison, insurers dropped only 79,383 homeowners last year in the far more populous urban areas.”

High-risk counties simultaneously saw a 177 percent increase in new FAIR Plan policies, which the department noted is a “last resort” for homeowners who can’t otherwise find coverage.

“We are seeing an increasing trend across California where people at risk of wildfires are being non-renewed by their insurer,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “I have heard from many local communities about how not being able to obtain insurance can create a domino effect for the local economy, affecting home sales and property taxes. This data should be a wake-up call for state and local policymakers that without action to reduce the risk from extreme wildfires and preserve the insurance market we could see communities unraveling.”

Losing insurance “can be catastrophic for homeowners,” Kasler and Sabalow write, because to find coverage without astronomical premiums when living in wildfire land is no easy feat.

On top of that, the shocking numbers follow the deadliest wildfire season in California history, which included the November Camp Fire in Paradise that left nearly 90 people dead.


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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.