Spring Recess Legislation Update: April 2021

Sacramento, Ca

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.

Wildfires:

In response to increased wildfires throughout the state (2, 257,863 acres burned in 2020 alone), bills related to wildlife research & prevention, electric utilities, and land use & development were introduced this session. In examining trends this session, both research and subsequent prevention measures as well as oversight on utilities appear to be at the forefront of legislators’ objectives.

AB 1154 and AB 267 focus on CEQA exemptions for egress route projects and prescribed fire, thinning, or fuel reduction projects to improve fire safety and high-severity wildfire reduction. AB 522 extends operations of the Forest Fire Prevention Exemption indefinitely and removes requirements on certain acre requirements related to tree harvesting. SB 109 and AB 981 establish the Office of Wildlife Technology Research and Development and the California Fire Safe Council to study, test, and advise on emergency technology and tools to more effectively prevent and suppress wildfire as well as identify public and private programs that can lead to structure-hardening and community resiliency.

AB 529, SB 533, and SB 259 increase required communication or notification by publicly owned electric utilities or electrical cooperatives, require the highest levels of safety, reliability, and resiliency in electrical transmission and distribution systems, and strengthen the Public Utilities Commission oversight of electrical corporation’s efforts to reduce fire risk.

AB 909 and SB 63 require the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to develop fire risk assessment maps and make changes to fuel modification regulations beyond the property line. AB 642 and SB 6 focus on fire protection building standards and require the Department of Forest and Fire Protection to make recommendations on how to understand and model wildfire risk. SB 55 and SB 12 require review and revision of mitigation plans to include a comprehensive retrofit strategy to reduce the risk of property loss and damage during wildfire and prohibit the creation or approval of new development in very high fire hazard severity zones.

General:

AB 1154: Egress Route Projects and Fire Safety (Also CEQA)

SB 109:Wildfire Technology Development

AB 267: Prescribed Burns Exemption and Reporting (Also CEQA related)

AB 522: Forest Fire Prevention Exemption

AB 981: California Fire Safe Council

Electric Utilities:

AB 529: Electrical Utilities: Fire Safety, Prevention, Mitigation

SB 533: Electricity Company Fire Prevention Mitigation Planning Policies

SB 259: Strengthen Power of Government to Enforce Business Fire Mitigation Plan Annual Submission

Land Use Development Related:

General:

AB 909: Wildfire Risk Assessment Map

SB 63: Forest Management and Fire Hazard Zones

AB 642: Identification and Classification of Risk, Public Education Fire Training Center

Land Use Development Prohibition Related:

SB 55: Fire Hazard Zones/New Development Zones

SB 12:Hazard Mitigation in Housing Planning

SB 6:Density Planning

Emissions and Carbon Sequestration:

A number of bills related to emissions, end-uses, and carbon neutrality and sequestration were introduced this session with a major focus on equity and underrepresented communities.  These bills focus on natural gas bans in new public buildings, carbon neutrality of buildings, transportation electrification acceleration and implementation, carbon sequestration in natural and working lands, supply of renewable energy, and legacy electric portfolio cost issues related to departed load.  

There is another push for procuring 100% zero-carbon resources for all state agency load under AB 1161 as well as increasing the mandated load served by eligible clean energy resources to a 100% goal and specified ranges of load served by clean energy by 2035 based on whether the entity is an investor owned utility or a publicly owned electric utility per SB 67

How to address legacy electric portfolio procurement issues for community choice aggregation and direct access departed load was also added as an issue under an amendment to SB 612, which will impact existing portfolio indifference adjustment charge (PCIA) or exits fees in terms of options and costs allocations, if passed. Notably, AB 33 already moved through a gut and amendment process where the natural gas ban in new public buildings was removed and replaced with broad directives to the Energy Commission on energy storage and transportation electrification language. SB 30 still requires a natural gas ban for state buildings as well as a carbon-neutrality plan.

Natural Gas Ban:

SB 30:  Natural Gas Ban and Carbon-Neutrality Planning for State-Owned Buildings

Transportation:

AB 96: California Clean Truck, Bus, Off-Road Vehicle and Equipment Technology Program

AB 745: Clean Cars 4 All Program

AB 992: California Clean Truck, Bus, and Off-Road Vehicle and Equipment Technology Program

AB 1069: Zero-Emission Passenger Vehicles: Underrepresented Communities

AB 1110: California Clean Fleet Accelerator Program

AB 1218: Equitable Access to Zero-Emissions Vehicles Fund

SB 643: Zero-Emissions Vehicle Policy

AB 33: Energy Storage and Transportation Electrification Investment

AB 1463: California Global Warming Solutions Act: Low Carbon Fuel Standard Regulations

GHG Emission Reductions and Carbon Sequestration:

SB 31: Decarbonization Funding for New and Existing Developments

SB 32:  City and County Decarbonization Planning

SB 68:  Building Decarbonization and Building Electrification Costs

AB 1395: Greenhouse Gases: Carbon Neutrality

AB 284: California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006: Climate Goal for Natural and Working Lands

AB 680: Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund: California Just Transition Act

AB 1289: Smart Climate Agriculture Program: Plant-Based Agriculture

AB 1508: Whole Orchard Recycling: Carbon Offset Credits and Healthy Soils

SB 27: Carbon Sequestration Planning

SB 260: Publicly Traded and Foreign Company Carbon Emission Disclosures

Electric Supply and End Uses

End Use:

AB 426: Toxic Air Contaminants Regulations

SB 18: CARB Green Hydrogen Strategic Planning

Supply and other Related Impacts:

AB 1161: Eligible Renewable Energy and Zero-Carbon Resources Procurement for All State Agencies

SB 67: California 24/7 Clean Energy Standard Program

AB 1139: CARE/NEM 3.0

SB 617: City and County Online Solar Permitting Platform Implementation

SB 207: Recovery and Recycling of PV Panels

Off-Shore Wind:

AB 525: Offshore Wind Generation

SB 413: Offshore Wind Site Certification

Procurement Legacy Costs related to Departed Load:

SB 612: Electrical Corporations and Other Load-serving Entities: Allocation of Legacy Resources

Resiliency/Adaptation:

Resiliency and adaptation related bills focusing on sea level rise and regional/local action were introduced this session. Traditional planning and harm-reductions measures related to sea level rise appear popular, emphasizing the progressive need to focus on harm resiliency rather than mitigation efforts related to coast lines and sea level rise. Environmental justice efforts are often highlighted in proposed regional and local initiatives, perhaps in response to increased activism efforts related to racial justice in the summer of 2020.

Bills introduced in response to sea level rise center on harm reduction, local development planning, and loan programs incentivizing local governments to preemptively decrease harm from sea level rise. AB 67 requires state agencies to integrate the current and future impacts of sea level rise in planning, designing, building, operating, maintaining, and investing in infrastructure in the coastal zone and prevents new or expanded infrastructure unless the project is not anticipated to be vulnerable to sea level rise or is resilient to mid-century sea level rise. In addition, AB 67 and AB 826 focus on establishing working groups to address resource and recreational goals of coast area, and recommend policies, resolutions, projects, and other actions to address sea level rise and its anticipated harm. SB 1 requires the California Coastal Commission to adopt, recommendations and guidelines for the identification, assessment, minimization, and mitigation of sea level rise within each local coastal program and creates the California Sea Level Rise State and Regional Support Collaborative to require state and regional information to the public and support local, regional, and other state agencies for identification, assessment,planning, and, where feasible, the mitigation of the adverse environmental, social, and economic effects of sea level rise. Finally, SB 83 Creates the Sea Level Rise Revolving Loan Program to provide low-interest loans to local jurisdictions for the purchase of coastal properties in their jurisdictions identified as vulnerable costal property.

Regional and local action legislation introduced this session create regional climate change authorities and networks and focus on environmental justice initiatives in climate change planning efforts. AB 11 and AB 897 create regional climate change authorities and a regional climate network to develop a regional climate adaptation action plan and coordinate climate and mitigation activities across regions.

Many bills look to place environmental justice efforts front and center. AB 1384 requires the Strategic Growth Council to develop and coordinate a strategic resiliency framework and proactively engage vulnerable communities whose planning and project development has been disproportionately impacted by climate change effects.  AB 1087 increases the annual allocation from the Public Utilities Commission of revenues received by electrical corporations for clean and energy efficient programs from 15% to 85% and requires the corporations to award revenues as competitive grants for holistic community-driven building upgrade programs in critical communities. Similarly, SB 99 requires the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to develop and implement a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans. AB 880 focuses on funding predevelopment expenses to develop affordable housing in disaster areas that have experienced damage and loss of homes occupied or affecting lower income households. Further, AB 1453 implements the Just Transition Plan that recommends to transition the state’s economy to a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy that maximizes the benefits of climate actions while minimizing burdens to workers. Finally, AB 1500 would authorize the issuance of bonds to finance safe drinking water, wildlife prevention, drought preparation, flood preparation, extreme heat mitigation, and workforce development projects.

Sea Level Rise:

AB 67: Sea Level Rise Economic Analysis

AB 826: South Central California Coast Beach Erosion

SB 1:Coastal Zone Planning and Mitigation

SB 83: Sea Level Rise Revolving Loan Fund

Regional and Local Action:

AB 11: Regional Climate Change Coordination Groups

AB 880: Affordable Disaster Housing Revolving Development and Acquisition Program

AB 897: Regional Climate Networks and Climate Adaptation Action Plans

AB 1087: Environmental Justice Community Resilience Hubs Program

AB 1384: Resiliency Through Adaptation, Economic Vitality, and Equity Act of 2022

AB 1453: Just Transition Advisory Commission

AB 1500: Safe Drinking Water, Wildfire Prevention, Drought Preparation, Flood Protection, Extreme Heat Mitigation, and Workforce Development Bond Act of 2022

SB 99: Community Energy Resiliency Planning

Reliability and Rolling Blackouts:

AB 427 and AB 585 provide new and responsive strategies to respond to current and future climate crises. In response to recent and more frequent wildfires and “deenergization” events, resource adequacy and reliability have become paramount. AB 427 pushes for a more dynamic and diverse electrical supply, energy storage, and resource response. This bill would invest in new generating capacity, in furtherance of demand response resources. AB 585 delegates to the Office of Planning and Research the power to award grants for local, regional, and state climate change planning, specifically addressing community resilience toward extreme heat. These grants would fund projects that reduce public health risk, such as updates to building design to increase shade and solar reflection, and updates to community evacuation and emergency response centers. Together, these bills aim to ensure resilience and responsiveness to future energy emergency events.

AB 427: Resource Adequacy Requirements

AB 585: Extreme Heat and Community Resilience Program

Battery Storage/Air Quality Waivers & Incentives:

AB 843, AB 1139, and SB 244 represent different sides of the same coin, forming policy around Bioenergy usage and tariffs, policy for equitable energy rates (California Alternative Rates for Energy Program, or “CARE”) for net energy metering, and policy for guidance and protocol development of recycling batteries. Together, these bills work to provide more efficient, equitable, and safe energy for Californians.

AB 843: California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program: Renewable Feed-In Tariff

AB 1139: California Alternative Rates for Energy Program: Net Energy Metering

SB 244: Battery Recycling Policies

About Joe Kaatz

Staff Attorney at the Energy Policy Initiatives Center, University of San Diego School of Law.
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