In an inaugural address drawing on his family’s deep roots in California, Gov. Jerry Brown called for expansive new environmental regulations that would protect the state for future generations.
The governor also pledged not to stray from promises he has made to strengthen California’s finances, invest in the $68-billion high-speed rail system and major water infrastructure projects.
“While we have not reached the Promised Land, we have much to be proud of,” Brown told the California Legislature in the Capitol.
Brown’s speech hewed mostly to familiar themes of fiscal restraint and increasing local control over schools and criminal justice. But he announced an ambitious new proposal to reduce carbon emissions for years to come.
“Taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels,” he said. “This is exciting, it is bold and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system.”
By 2030, Brown wants California to derive 50% of its electricity from renewable sources, up from the goal of 33% by 2020. He also wants to double the energy efficiency of existing buildings and reduce by half the use of petroleum by cars and trucks.
Going on a wonky tangent in a speech otherwise characterized by generalities, Brown detailed possible innovations like “expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage” and others.
The goals, which would help solidify Brown’s legacy as a green-minded politician, will likely be the target of heavy lobbying in the Capitol over the next few years. Oil companies have already been bitterly fighting regulations currently on the books.
Environmental activists, however, have powerful allies of their own, including Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer, who was in the Capitol for Brown’s speech.
The governor’s inauguration was short on pomp and circumstance, and Brown combined his inaugural address and state of the state into one speech.
But the event was long on tradition. He was sworn into office on the same Bible used during his wedding to Anne Gust Brown and his previous inaugurations as attorney general and governor. And Brown acknowledged his extended family in the balcony of the Assembly chambers, asking them to stand at the beginning of his speech.
Brown is the only governor to be elected four times, and he will likely be the last, unless voters overturn the term limits they embedded in the state Constitution.
During the speech, Brown also reminisced about his first time in the Assembly chamber, in 1959, when his father, Pat, became governor. He pointed out where he sat, wearing the Roman collar that marked his time in a Jesuit seminary before entering politics.
Brown said the state still wrestles with some of the same problems it did decades ago, and he urged lawmakers to seek solutions that can stand the test of time.
“California feeds on change and great undertakings, but the path of wisdom counsels us to ground ourselves and nurture carefully all that we have started,” he said. “We must build on rock, not sand, so that when the storms come, our house stands.”
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