California lawmaker withdraws bill to curb carbon emissions
The push for aggressive new state policies to fight climate change suffered another setback Thursday.
Legislation to put into law executive orders on long-term targets for reducing carbon emissions was pulled from consideration. It had failed to win enough support from lawmakers and faced objections from the governor’s office.
The bill’s author, state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), vowed to revive it next year.
The defeat came a day after Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders withdrew a key portion of another proposal to combat climate change, one calling for California to cut its use of gasoline in half. They had been unable to overcome fierce opposition from the oil industry and resistance from some Democrats.
Pavley tried to overcome opposition to her measure by changing it to provide more legislative oversight of the state’s powerful Air Resources Board, which has become a sticking point in climate-related negotiations with lawmakers. The board implements and enforces laws and executive orders to reduce air pollution.
But the governor thought some amendments would have compromised the measure’s effectiveness.
“The administration was supportive of the legislation as introduced, but later amendments could have weakened the state’s existing ability to fight climate change,” said Gareth Lacy, the governor’s deputy press secretary. “We can’t trade what is already being done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to get a new bill.”
The targets in Pavley’s bill were set by Brown and his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The bills were among scores of measures that state lawmakers have been debating as they rush to wrap up unfinished business before the 2015 session ends on Friday.
Legislators voted for stricter inspections of thousands of miles of oil pipelines crisscrossing the state, a response to the massive crude oil spill in May that fouled the Santa Barbara County coastline and dumped 20,000 gallons of crude into the Pacific Ocean.
That proposal, which lawmakers sent to Brown, would require the state fire marshal’s office to annually inspect oil pipelines under its jurisdiction.
The pipeline that broke near Santa Barbara was being inspected every other year. Federal regulators later discovered that corrosion had eaten away half of the pipeline’s metal wall.
“If the pipeline had been inspected more frequently, the spill could have been avoided, because we would have known it was corroding more rapidly,” said Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), the bill’s author.
The pipeline released up to 101,000 gallons of crude, with an estimated 21,000 gallons flowing downhill from the spill site through a culvert, under the 101 Freeway and into the Pacific. The spill forced the closure of Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach for more than a month.
The Senate passed a measure to require the state Fire Marshal’s Office to make sure oil pipelines in environmentally and ecologically sensitive coastal areas are using the latest technology, such as automatic shut-off valves and leak detectors, to avoid spills.
The pipeline rupture that caused the oil spill in May was the only large transmission line in Santa Barbara County not fitted with an automatic shutdown valve, according to federal officials. Such a safety device would have automatically shut down the pipeline, overriding human operators.
The bill goes back to the Assembly, where it originated, for action on amendments.
Also returning to the Assembly is a measure approved by senators to automatically register to vote any eligible Californians who renew or receive a driver’s license or state identification card, unless they opt out.
The measure was spurred by the 42% record-low turnout in the November 2014 statewide election, as well as a March election in Los Angeles in which only about 10% of eligible voters participated.
Nearly 7 million Californians, mostly young people, are eligible but not registered to vote.
“The California New Motor Voter Act is a simple, common-sense opportunity to streamline and modernize our voting system to bring millions of eligible voters into the electoral process,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the bill’s author.
Also on Thursday, lawmakers rejected limits on police seizures of cash, cars and other property from people not convicted of a crime. That proposal failed in the Assembly in the face of intense opposition from law enforcement groups.
The legislation would have curbed the use of a 1980s drug-war-era U.S. law, which allows local agencies that work with federal officials to keep such assets if there’s suspicion they were used in a crime or are the proceeds of illegal activity.
The bill would have required law enforcement agencies to return confiscated property absent a criminal conviction.
In other action, lawmakers sent Brown measures that would:
•Suspend the state’s high school exit exam for three years and allow diplomas to be issued to about 40,000 students who did not pass it going back to 2004.
•Ban schools from using the term “Redskins” for school or athletic team names, mascots or nicknames.
•Require disclosure of who pays for lawmakers to attend annual conferences in Hawaii and other exotic locales.
Times staff writers Phil Willon and Chris Megerian contributed to this report.
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