California Lawmakers Approve Historic Climate Measures

California Lawmakers Approve Historic Climate Measures - Carbon Herald
Lake Shasta, CA, August 20, 2014 — California’s lingering drought exposes the 180-200 foot drop in water levels. The state’s largest reservoir is receding at an average of 4.9 inches per day. Image: David Greitzer/Shutterstock

The California legislature passed a set of aggressive climate measures and approved a record $54 billion in climate spending on Aug. 31. The measures include health-and-safety setbacks to protect vulnerable communities against oil and gas drilling, targets for clean electricity and carbon neutrality, and permits for carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. 

“Passage of this monumental bill is a tribute to the tireless frontline communities who have fought for their lives against fossil fuel polluters for years,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “California has more work to do on climate and environmental justice, but these protections are a huge step toward a healthier, safer, more sustainable future.”

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Part of a climate package endorsed by the state’s governor, the bill will create a 3,200-foot buffer zone between drilling sites and homes and schools. 

The new legislature also set two specific targets: to achieve 90% clean electricity by 2035 and carbon neutrality by 2045. That means that the state will have to reduce harmful emissions by at least 85% by 2045 and offset any remaining emissions with direct air capture technology or by planting trees. 

The state intends to spend $54 billion over five years and will allocate $6 billion to electric vehicles and over $8 billion for the decarbonization of its electrical grid. $15 billion will also go toward improving public transportation and $5 billion will be spent on drought resilience programs as the American West has been facing a devastating 22-year drought. 

California also approved a measure that speeds up permits for CCS, a 50-year-old technology that comes with high costs and creates polarizing opinions. While many scientists argue that CCS is both ineffective and unsafe, the state’s new measure will allow CO2 pipelines to inject carbon waste at sites near vulnerable communities.  

The new legislature also postponed the closing of the state’s only operational power plant – Diablo Canyon – to at least 2030. While proponents of the measure say that it will help stabilize California’s electric grid with zero-emissions power, opponents argue that keeping the site open will prove costly in the long-term and poses significant environmental risks.  

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