California Must Keep its Clean-Energy Agenda Moving Forward

Although there are legitimate concerns over California's environmental legislation, we cannot loose the momentum and become stagnant.

by San Jose Mercury News / September 4, 2015
The California Legislature should pass two visionary climate bills -- SB 32 and SB 350 -- and Gov. Jerry Brown should sign them. Flickr/Charlie Kaijo
(TNS) -- California has set the nation's clean-energy and energy-efficiency agenda for decades. Sometimes others follow quickly, sometimes slowly, but the future begins here.

This is no time to let up: Good environmental policy has proven to be good business policy, and it would be irresponsible to lose the momentum we've achieved. The Legislature should pass two visionary climate bills -- Sen. Fran Pavley's SB 32 and Senate leader Kevin de Leon's SB 350 -- and Gov. Jerry Brown should sign them.

The goals are ambitious: reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels over the next 30 years and cut in half the amount of gas cars and trucks use over 15 years. But this state has set dynamic energy goals in the past that have served it well and advanced rather than crippled California's economy.

There is one valid criticism of the legislation. Negotiations on details are taking place largely behind closed doors. Some sunshine would increase public trust as well as identify potential weaknesses early enough to fix problems.

The oil and gas industry is screaming that the legislation will lead to gas rationing and to surcharges on SUVs and minivans that will effectively outlaw them. But alarmist rants of status quo industries have proven wrong in the past and will again.

The other major criticism, that the language in Pavley's SB 32 is too vague, is overblown. The lack of precision is by design. Regulators need flexibility to react to developing technology and changing economic conditions; prescriptive rules set today would never apply perfectly 10 years down the road.

California navigated these regulatory challenges well with its landmark AB 32 legislation, the base upon which the current bills build. It is on track to meet its goals for reduced pollution by 2020, and no SUVs have been harmed, although their mileage is improving -- good for consumers if not the oil industry.

Californians support these policies. Respondents to a recent Public Policy Institute of California survey overwhelmingly believe global warming poses a serious threat and favored both SB 32 and SB 350 by more than a 2-1 margin.

The bills have strong support from industry, including the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Certainty in the state's long-term energy policy will spur further innovation and investment in clean tech, a strong sector of Bay Area industry.

Unfortunately, three Bay Area legislators, Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell and Assemblywomen Nora Campos, D-San Jose, and Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, reportedly are not fully on board. We're surprised. This region in particular supports visionary policies like these.

The nation takes its cue on energy policy from California. The next phase of climate legislation should pass decisively to continue the progress we've made.

©2015 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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