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With oil-reduction targets dropped, climate change bill passes Assembly

With oil-reduction targets dropped, climate change bill passes Assembly
California state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, left, accompanied by California Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, announces he is scaling back a proposal to address climate change during a news conference on Wednesday in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Stripped of a contentious provision to slash gasoline use in half, a high-profile bill to combat climate change cleared a major hurdle on the California Assembly floor Friday.

"California is leading by example again," said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who presented the measure on the floor. "It sets the course not only for our state, but for the nation and quite frankly, the world."

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The bill by Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) would require the state to get 50% of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2030. It also would double the energy efficiency in buildings in the next 15 years.

But the most controversial part of the measure -- a requirement to cut petroleum use in California by 50% -- was dropped earlier this week, in the face of stiff opposition from the oil industry and resistance from a sizable bloc of Assembly Democrats, who voiced concerns about economic effects and expansion of executive power.

"Oil has won the skirmish. But they've lost the bigger battle," said Gov. Jerry Brown at a Capitol news conference on Wednesday when the changes were announced. "Because I am more determined than ever."

Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-Rialto), who had been among the Democratic holdouts on the bill, noted the measure had been drastically changed.

"This bill started out an entirely different bill," she said.

Despite some lingering concerns, Brown said, those changes had assuaged her main doubts. She urged her colleagues, "this bill needs to pass."

Most Republicans remained opposed to the measure.

"The amendments to this bill do not address the most serious concern — the fact it will be a driver of Californians into poverty," said Assemblyman Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach). "This bill will increase the cost of living for residents who are already struggling to make ends meet."

The measure, SB 350, passed on an 51-26 vote and now heads to the state Senate for final approval.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

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