This blog was drafted by Allie Maggart, a 2024 J.D./M.A. joint degree candidate at the University of San Diego School of Law and Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, with minimal edits.
As the legislative calendars move towards the end of the 2022 term with the next major deadline being whether bills reach the governor’s desk, the following provides an update on climate and energy legislative trends from the 2021-2022 sessions based on several interrelated topics: housing, wildfire, greenhouse gas emissions, transportation, energy demand response, and utilities regulation. The Legislature will reconvene on August 1, 2022, with August 31st being the last day for each house to pass bills. The Governor will then have until September 30th to sign or veto.
For a full list of active, enacted, and chaptered bills, please refer to our Legislative Tracking website.
In my last post on “coming to terms” with climate commitments, I focused on the terms and the meaning of various climate commitments. It is important to understand what they mean but it is equally important to understand the magnitude of the commitments. To make it easy, let’s look at California’s target to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible but no later than 2045, and then to achieve net negative emissions thereafter. I will focus only on the carbon neutrality part here. California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) defines carbon neutral as sources equaling sinks. And, even though the target specifies carbon, it covers all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. So, once we have done everything we can to reduce or avoid GHGs, which is no small feat, we need to remove a quantity of emissions from the atmosphere equal to the GHGs that still remain. I will not be discussing the actual process of or options for removing emissions — that is a topic for the future — but rather the amount of the remaining emissions in California that will have to be canceled out by removals. This post provides estimates for remaining emissions at the state level and for the San Diego region.
From local governments to Fortune 500 companies, it seems everyone has a climate commitment these days. President Biden has a goal of achieving a net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050. California Governor Gavin Newsom asked the State’s Air Resources Board and Public Utilities Commission to evaluate pathways to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 – faster than contemplated in a previously adopted executive order. The City of Irvine adopted a resolution setting a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. And companies are making similar commitments. Microsoft has pledged to be carbon negative by 2030 and to remove enough carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere to cancel out all its historical emissions by 2050. It is not clear that we have come to terms with what these commitments mean – both the language and what it will take to get there.
This post reviews key terms to help make sense of GHG emissions commitments. It will be helpful to anyone developing or interpreting climate commitments, or following the upcoming twenty-sixth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place in November 2021 in Glasgow.
With the October 10th deadline passing for the Governor to act on bills approved by the Legislature, the following represents the conclusion of tracked bills. There is still an option for the Legislature to override a veto and the vetoed bills will be tracked until the time period to override ends.
Major trends from this session include a wide range of wildfire related bills, carbon sequestration, firm renewable energy resources and offshore wind, waste reduction and recycling, oil and gas well issues and mitigation, CEQA streamlining, and mitigation of and adaptation to climate impacts.
The deadline to pass bills occurred on September 10, 2021 for the current 2021 session. The Governor has until October 10th, 2021 to sign or veto these bills. You can link to our Legislative Database to view relevant bills from this session that we will continue to track. Several trends emerge from this session from the approximately 60 relevant bills enrolled by the legislative deadline.
There continues to be a major emphasis on wildfire planning and mitigation as the state continues to see consistent wildfires each year that burn large acreage and threaten life, safety, and property. How to decarbonize the transportation sector remains a major issue of contention as well as exploration of various ways to address emissions and infrastructure in this sector. Offshore wind development and electric generation from bioenergy facilities are also major actions this session. Finally, the battle over how to implement greenhouse gas emission (GHG) capture or removal from the atmosphere continues.
Last week, the California Energy Commission (CEC) adopted energy efficiency standards to be included in the 2022 state building standards (Title 24, Part 6). The new energy code will further increase building energy efficiency and reduce emissions from California buildings when they go into effect January 1, 2023. But what will these new state standards mean for the many local governments across the state that have adopted or are in the process of adopting reach codes that go beyond what the state is currently requiring?
Sometimes we get so focused on our silos that we don’t see connections across silos or the broader context. At EPIC we spend a lot of time working on policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but during a recent project on carbon offset credits I learned more about the role of natural and working lands in California’s climate strategy. Add to that the recent activity related to carbon dioxide removal, particularly engineered solutions, and I began to see a more complete picture of climate action.
In hopes of making the complex work of climate policy a bit more digestible, consider a three-pronged framework for climate action: reduce emissions, preserve existing carbon stocks, and remove carbon from the atmosphere. This is nothing new. It basically summarizes California’s climate strategy, but I had to connect the dots to see it. This post summarizes each element of this framework.
On February 18, 2021, Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez introduced AB 1139 to amend Public Utilities Code Section 739.1, repeal Sections 2827 and 2827.7, and repeal and add Section 2827. These amendments, repeals, and additions address reforms to the CARE program that set specific discount rate ranges as well as a NEM reform that seeks to: 1) eliminate any cost-shift between NEM and non-NEM customers; and 2) change the compensation received for energy exported to the grid under a new NEM tariff to the hourly wholesale market rate applicable at the time of the export and the location of the customer self-generator. The bill would also expand access to renewable energy for CARE customers in several ways. The following discusses both the changes to CARE and NEM based on the bills April 8, 2021 amendments. Additional amendments are expected if this bill moves through committee and each chamber. If signed into law, this bill would impact the in process CPUC R.20-08-020: Successor Tariff to Net Energy Metering proceeding.
Written by: Lucia Rose (J.D. Candidate May 2022), Hayley Zech (J.D. Candidate May 2022), and Joe Kaatz (EPIC Staff Attorney)
The following describes identified trends and bills of interest on a range of energy, climate, and equity issues from this legislative session. EPIC is in the process of developing a full list of bills to be published on its website by the end of this week. This blog will be updated as soon as that link is live.
Co-authored with Bill Brick (San Diego Air Pollution Control District)
Over the past several weeks there has been a reduction in daily vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the San Diego region due to Shelter-in-Place orders issued by the Governor of California. As discussed in a previous blog post, this decline in VMT has led to a reduction in greenhouse gases, the key gases in the changing climate. But there is also a relationship between VMT and daily and short-term air pollution. We know that over two-thirds of smog-forming emissions in San Diego county are generated from mobile sources. Air pollutants emitted from cars, diesel-powered trucks, buses, and other heavy‑duty equipment include oxides of nitrogen (NOx) as well as diesel particulate matter (PM). It is reasonable, therefore, to expect that the reduction in VMT also would result in a reduction in such mobile source air pollutants.
The media has reported on how lock-downs have affected air pollution in many parts of the world and how clean and clear the air has become in metropolitan areas. People in the San Diego region have been asking the same question of how this reduction in VMT has affected our air quality. Due to this heightened interest in recent air monitoring data, the San Diego Air Pollution Control District (District) has provided a preliminary assessment of air quality measurements (even before the March 2020 data have been fully processed and validated). This post summarizes these preliminary findings.