Here are all the climate and environment bills that California just passed

A dome-shaped building with flags in front of it.
The state Capitol in Sacramento.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Share via

This story was originally published in Boiling Point, a newsletter about climate change and the environment. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

At midnight Thursday, California lawmakers put their pencils down.

The legislative session had come to a close in Sacramento, and elected officials had approved a whole bunch of climate change, energy and environment bills — and rejected others. Here’s a brief roundup of some of the highest-profile legislation.

New requirements for big business:

  • Lawmakers approved the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act, which will require companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue to disclose their carbon emissions — including emissions from their supply chains. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would sign the bill, along with legislation that will require corporations with annual revenue above $500 million to disclose their climate-related financial risks. (Stories by The Times’ Dorany Pineda and the Sacramento Bee’s Jenavieve Hatch)
  • Senate Bill 704 would make it harder for proposed oil and gas developments along the Pacific coast, including drilling and refining operations, to get approved — assuming the bill is signed by Newsom. (Natalie Hanson, Courthouse News Service)
  • Assembly Bill 1167 would make it harder for big oil and gas companies to pass off old wells to smaller companies that might not be able to afford to clean them up — again assuming the bill is signed by Newsom. (Ari Plachta, Sacramento Bee)
  • Assembly Bill 631 would ensure that California “has 21st century enforcement tools to protect communities from oil and gas operations that violate the law and endanger both public health and the environment,” according to the legislation’s author.
  • In a win for the fossil fuel industry, legislators approved a bill that critics say would weaken a recent law designed to limit price-gouging at the gasoline pump. Environmental activists hope Newsom will veto this one. (Blanca Begert, Politico)

New support for clean energy:

  • Assembly Bill 1373 — which could help get California’s first offshore wind farms built, and maybe some clean geothermal power plants too, by allowing the state to sign long-term contracts to buy electricity from those facilities — was approved. Here’s my story from earlier this month on the deal between Newsom and legislative leaders that led to this bill.
  • Speaking of which, AB 1373 could also help spur construction of a pumped storage hydropower plant in San Diego County, which would be operated by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy and another company. If you’re wondering how the San Vicente pumped hydro project made it into the bill, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Rob Nikolewski has answers.
  • Another bill, meanwhile, would require state officials to develop a plan to prepare California’s ports for offshore wind power.
  • Senate Bill 619 — which could speed up the state permitting process for electric lines — was overwhelmingly approved.
  • Not a single lawmaker voted against Senate Bill 49, which would instruct state agencies to evaluate the potential for solar panels along highways — one way to protect public lands from large solar farms. (Kelsey Misbrener, Solar Power World)
  • Senate Bill 410 could prompt utilities to connect electrical equipment to the grid faster, Politico notes in a legislative roundup.

Clean transportation and buildings too:

  • Legislators approved Assembly Bill 579, which would require all new school buses to be zero-emission — most likely electric — starting in 2035. Industry trade group Advanced Energy United has said it’s worried that Newsom could veto the bill.
  • Under pressure from the oil industry, lawmakers and Newsom struck a deal to spend $106 million building hydrogen fueling stations, even though hardly anyone drives hydrogen cars. The money is part of broader legislation that will devote far larger sums to other clean transportation infrastructure, including electric vehicle chargers. (Alejandro Lazo, CalMatters)
  • Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 48, which the advocacy group Environment America says would require state officials to develop a strategy to “improve energy and water efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in large buildings.”
  • Legislators also passed Senate Bill 394, which would require state officials “to create a statewide plan to help school districts integrate climate resilience and sustainability into their master plans,” as Public News Service’s Suzanne Potter writes.

Protecting our water supplies:

  • A bill headed to Newsom’s desk would ban the use of drinking water to irrigate purely decorative grass that no one uses. Another bill approved by lawmakers would allow cities to ban the installation of artificial turf at homes, based on research showing that fake grass can result in microplastics washing into streams and the ocean. (Ian James, Los Angeles Times)
  • Assembly Bill 249 would tighten standards for lead testing in schools’ drinking water. (Dorany Pineda, L.A. Times)
  • In the latest chapter in San Diego County’s ongoing water drama, lawmakers approved a bill that could make it harder for local water agencies to withdraw from larger regional water authorities — but too late to stop the contentious bureaucratic divorce already underway in San Diego County due to high water costs. (Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union-Tribune)
  • Assembly Bill 779 would tweak California’s work-in-progress groundwater rules to “level the playing field for all groundwater users, particularly small farmers and farmers of color,” according to three UCLA law students who helped write the bill.

The housing-climate nexus:

  • Lawmakers approved several bills designed to get more infill housing built in cities — a big deal for climate, because the denser our cities, the less gasoline we burn driving. A broader deal could be on the horizon next year. (Politico)

And now moving on to bills that didn’t pass:

  • Despite some last-minute scrambling, there was no legislative deal to allow home insurers to charge higher rates as wildfires get worse with climate change — a priority for insurance companies, some of which have stopped selling new policies in the state. My colleague Sam Dean wrote about what that may mean for insurance availability. The Times’ Anita Chabria and Erika D. Smith, meanwhile, asked whether we should be panicking about the home insurance market in the climate change era.
  • Speaking of home insurers — if climate change is making it too hard for them to offer policies, why are they still underwriting new fossil fuel projects? That’s the question posed by Arielle Samuelson and Emily Atkin in their Heated newsletter.
  • The oil lobby defeated legislation, Assembly Bill 1465, that would have tripled the fines paid by refineries for releasing toxic pollutants into communities, as happened in the Bay Area city of Martinez last year. (Will McCarthy, Mercury News)
  • Senate Bill 233, which would have required newly sold electric cars to be able to send power back onto the electric grid — a feature known as bidirectional charging — was held by its author after being gutted in committee. (Dan Avery, CNET)
  • Assembly Bill 985 would have required an audit of the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District, which oversees an especially polluted part of the state. But the bill failed to overcome a last-minute procedural hurdle. (Politico)
  • Lawmakers declined to approve a bill creating the Salton Sea Conservancy — a new state agency that would have helped oversee efforts to limit air pollution and habitat degradation at California’s largest lake. (Erin Rode, Desert Sun)

Got questions about these bills, or anything else climate? Come ask me and my colleague Rosanna Xia tonight! We’ll be taking questions via Zoom starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, through an Ask a Reporter event hosted by The Times. You can RSVP here.


Then at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Rosanna will discuss her fabulous new book, “California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline,” at L.A. bookshop Skylight Books. Details here. She’ll be in conversation with L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez.

On that note, here’s what’s happening around the West:


A man in a dark jacket stands before a microphone.
California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, has filed a lawsuit against major oil companies over climate change.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

California has joined the list of states and cities suing the oil industry over its history of climate denial, seeking damages for the many harms already caused by fossil fuel combustion. Gov. Gavin Newsom is taking BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Shell and the American Petroleum Institute to court, my colleague Louis Sahagún reports. Newsom’s announcement came shortly after the Northern Hemisphere wrapped up its hottest summer ever recorded, as my colleague Hayley Smith writes, and two-thirds of the way through a year in which communities across the U.S. already have suffered a record number of billion-dollar weather disasters, including California’s winter floods, as the Associated Press’ Seth Borenstein reports.

“Every scientific study in the history of scientific studies doesn’t include the whole story, for the simple reason that there’s no such thing as a simple cause of anything.” That’s what one expert told my colleague Alex Wigglesworth, for her story on the absurd controversy stirred up by a climate scientist who attempted to disavow his own wildfire research by claiming he censored himself. In other fire news, Alex explained how efforts to fight one of California’s largest fires this year were nearly derailed by a mixup of diesel fuel and gasoline. The Times’ Grace Toohey, meanwhile, wrote about the microgrid that kept the lights on in Del Norte County during that fire — although it was powered by diesel-fueled generators, not clean energy.

After initially backing out of its plan to invest in a green hydrogen storage project under development in Utah, Chevron has now acquired a majority stake in the project. Details here from Reuters’ Sabrina Valle. I’ve written about this hydrogen storage project several times — including last year, when Chevron told me it “no longer meets our requirements” — because it’s next door to the coal-fired Intermountain Power Plant, which supplies the city of Los Angeles and is being converted by the L.A. Department of Water and Power to run on a mixture of natural gas and hydrogen. I was curious what had changed, so I checked in with Chevron. Company spokesperson Kelly Russell didn’t provide much detail, telling me in an email that “circumstances have changed, and we believe this opportunity to be an attractive investment and a platform with immense potential.”


California’s former top oil regulator, Uduak-Joe Ntuk, is suing the state, claiming he was in effect fired by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration for refusing to stop issuing oil and gas drilling permits near homes after the fossil fuel industry got a measure on the ballot that has temporarily blocked a new law putting an end to those permits. Here’s the story from the Bakersfield Californian’s John Cox. In other news about oil and gas facilities in our communities, a long-awaited study of the health consequences of the Aliso Canyon gas leak is finally getting underway, with dozens of UCLA researchers involved, as Olga Grigoryants reports for the L.A. Daily News. I can also confirm that no one has appealed an Aliso Canyon leak settlement with Southern California Gas Co. that critics see as wildly inadequate, as I recently reported. The settlement has now taken effect. The state’s Public Utilities Commission has also eliminated a “withdrawal protocol” that limited when Aliso Canyon could be used.


California agencies and nonprofits will receive more than $100 million in federal Inflation Reduction Act funding to plant trees — many of them in the low-income neighborhoods and communities of color suffering the most as the planet heats up. My colleague Hayley Smith has the story. And as long as we’re talking about staying safe from extreme temperatures, Canary Media’s Alison F. Takemura wrote about new research finding that electric heat pumps not only perform well at heating homes in extremely cold weather, they actually outperform gas boilers and furnaces. Canary Media’s Jeff St. John also explored how it is that Arizona is arguably doing a better job than California at providing incentives for people to use less electricity during heat waves.

Southern California air regulators could have collected more than $200 million in penalties from the region’s worst smog polluters over the last decade. But they’ve shielded oil refineries, offshore oil drillers and other polluters from having to pay by using the public’s money to fund emissions-reduction programs, The Times’ Tony Briscoe reports. Whether or not air regulators change that policy, we’ll definitely have to rely more heavily on public transit to reduce smog pollution in Los Angeles. A new plan to create additional transit funding by putting up digital billboards at dozens of L.A. Metro sites could help, although critics say the billboards would make us less safe by distracting drivers, David Zahniser reports. Electric vehicles should help too — but what about union jobs building gasoline vehicles? In Michigan, striking autoworkers in are exposing the challenge faced by President Biden as he seeks to promote EVs while supporting a strong union workforce, the Associated Press’ Chris Megerian writes.


Conservationists are suing the Biden administration for failing to get Cliven Bundy’s cattle off of critical desert tortoise habitat on public lands in Nevada, and for allowing large solar farms to threaten tortoises too. You may recall that federal agents tried to round up Bundy’s illegally grazing cows in 2014, only to back off when threatened with armed confrontation by Bundy’s supporters, as Colton Lochhead notes in his story on the lawsuit for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The suit was filed by the Western Watersheds Project, which is also one of the groups suing the federal government for failing to conduct required environmental reviews for grazing permits on public lands across the West, per Kylie Mohr at High Country News. In other wildlife news, wild burros — descended from domesticated donkeys left behind by gold miners more than a century ago — are wreaking ecological havoc in Big Bear Valley, in California’s San Bernardino Mountains. ⁦The Times’ Lous Sahagún paid them a visit.

A farmer in California’s Imperial Valley suffered another courtroom defeat in his quest to shift control of the region’s Colorado River water rights — the largest such rights in the West — from the Imperial Irrigation District to landowning growers such as himself. Here’s the story from the Desert Sun’s Janet Wilson. (See also my 2018 investigation into the farmer, Mike Abatti.) In other Western water drama, wealthy investors are trying to move water from a rural Colorado farming region to the Denver area by getting favorable candidates elected to local water boards, per this story by Jennifer Oldham for Civil Eats. And near the California-Oregon border, the federal government shouldn’t have sent any water to farms in the Klamath Basin last year, a judge has ruled, to better protect fish and tribal rights. Alanna Mayham wrote about that ruling for Courthouse News Service.

“California’s $200 million commercial fishing industry could become the state’s first big casualty of climate change.” So writes the San Francisco Chronicle’s Tara Duggan in an illuminating story about one of the many consequences of global warming already underway. Elsewhere on the coast, the Port of San Francisco is considering lifting its iconic Ferry Building by as much as 7 feet to protect it from rising seas, NPR’s Chloe Veltman reports. (For more fascinating discussion about sea level rise, pre-order a copy of my colleague Rosanna Xia’s new book, which I mentioned earlier. I’ll have a Q&A with her in this Thursday’s newsletter!)



In an aerial view, a house gets solar panels installed.
A house in Brea, Calif., gets solar panels installed in June.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

In a small early victory for environmental groups looking to bring back higher rooftop solar incentives in California, an appeals court will hear their challenge to last year’s Public Utilities Commission decision slashing solar incentives. Here’s the story from Erik Anderson at KPBS, who also reports that the utilities commission is getting closer to approving new income-based fees on monthly electric bills — even though critics say the law that prompted the proposed fees doesn’t actually require them. In other news that could affect your electric bills, the utilities commission is poised to reject Pacific Gas & Electric’s request to increase its revenue by 26%. But the agency may still approve a 13% increase, the Associated Press’ Adam Beam reports.

A 600-megawatt battery storage installation at the site of a former gas plant along the California coast could be blocked by voters, with Morro Bay City Council putting the question on the ballot. Some locals worry that the lithium-ion batteries would present safety and pollution hazards, Stephanie Zappelli reports for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. This is the latest example of a community seeking to block clean energy infrastructure that’s badly needed to replace fossil fuels but can be understandably scary — a topic I’ve been covering through Repowering the West. And it’s always worth keeping in mind that lithium-ion batteries, although needed to store solar power for the evening, can lead to environmental damage by spurring demand for lithium. It’s one of many metals that could be affected by a new Biden administration proposal to reform mining on public lands. Miners would have to pay royalties for the first time, and more robust tribal consultation would be required, per Hannah Northey at E&E News.

Speaking of which, not all batteries are the same — just see Sacramento Municipal Utility District, which is testing long-duration iron flow batteries that can store electricity for several hours longer than the lithium-ion variety. The iron flow batteries being tested by the publicly owned electric utility are a big deal, Canary Media’s Julian Spector writes — in part because they could help the utility meet its goal of reaching 100% clean energy by 2030. That’s 15 years ahead of California’s deadline.


In the most eye-popping example of the wildland-urban interface I’ve ever seen, a bear was spotted at Walt Disney World.

Not an Audio-Animatronic bear — an actual black bear, wandering around the Magic Kingdom on Monday. The bear was captured and removed from the theme park, the New York Times’ Amanda Holpuch reports, with Florida wildlife officials saying it was most likely looking for food. It will be relocated to an area “in or around the Ocala National Forest,” a state spokesperson said.


I’ll be on the lookout for mountain lions at Disneyland in Anaheim.

We’ll be back in your inbox Thursday. To view this newsletter in your Web browser, click here. And for more climate and environment news, follow @Sammy_Roth on Twitter.