Our Senior Strategist, Parin Shah, re-caps the most recent BIG EJ wins in Sacramento
Spiced Up Energy and Climate Policy by Parin Shah
I just discovered that to some folks, cilantro tastes like soap. That is amazing to me. I love the flavor and to my taste buds, it adds just the right amount of freshness and spice to any masala dish I make (chickpea, chicken, eggplant or whatever). By now, you are wondering what this has to do with California’s energy, climate and environmental justice policy. Well, the California legislature just voted on a batch of bills related to energy, climate and environmental justice. To some people, all or just some parts of those bills may taste yummy and to others like a bar of soap in their mouth.
I think we’ve been served a pretty darn good meal: the state, especially the most vulnerable, will be healthier and better off because of what environmental justice champions in the legislature have cooked up. There will always be some flavor or aspect of any dish (policy) that may not taste just right to everyone. What sets this year apart from others is that we have witnessed a legislature that is more representative of California’s new majority sending a clear signal about the kind of climate and energy policies they will move– ones that address social inequities and environmental issues – they like a robust masala. Gone are the days where environmental and social justice policies are served separately and spiced with just some salt and pepper. The energy and climate portion of this year’s end of session came down to a debate about quality of life issues that impact all Californians, especially immigrant and working class families. This is a pretty different flavor from years past –an indication of what types of policy recipes the legislature may want to serve up.
Let’s tease apart this spicy set of policies.
Senate Bill 350 (De León-Leno)—the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act—a requirement to source 50% of retail electricity sales from renewables by 2030 and double the state’s energy efficiency savings in the same time frame. The bill also requires the California Energy Commission to report on the current barriers to installing more clean energy and making energy efficiency investments in environmental justice communities and identify recommendations for ways the state can overcome these barriers. Evelyn García, a high school senior in Oxnard, wrote a beautiful op-ed that conveys my point more elegantly.
SB 350 was a particularly spicy dish that the legislature tamed down in the end. This was due to a lot of lies funded by the oil industry and the unrefined pallets of a handful of policymakers that we’ll need to hold accountable for their actions. To be clear, these officials do not represent the opinions of a majority of Californians. We welcome using less petroleum – according to Public Policy Institute of California most adults in the state (73%) favor reducing oil use in vehicles. For an excellent summary of SB 350, please read Laura Wisland’s post and for a more in-depth analysis of the very important transportation electrification aspects check out Max Baumfefner’s blog.
Assembly Bill 1288 (Atkins-Pavley) – Air Resources – ensures that the California Air Resources Board is more representative of the state and responds more effectively to issues in communities overburdened by pollution. The bill adds two representatives who work directly with low-income communities and communities of color overburdened by pollution and facing other factors to the California Air Resources Board (ARB). This policy is the equivalent of adding cardamom to a masala it can really bring out the full flavor and potential of a dish. The additional members change dynamics at one of the most powerful regulatory agencies in the state and quite frankly make it more representative. Senate pro Tem Kevin De León at the hearing for AB 1288 said it was a “paradigm shift”, and I agree.
Assembly Bill 693 (Eggman) – Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar – opens a new market for local solar power generation to a segment, low-income renters living in apartments. These are the folks who are often last to benefit from green technologies – huge deal. It creates a new program that will finance solar installations on multifamily affordable housing projects. The bill also allows tenants to reduce utility costs by directly crediting their bills for the solar energy used and generated. These ratepayers typically spend 25-30% of their income on utility bills as compared to the average ratepayer that spends approximately 5%. This policy is like the dish at mealtime that brings everything together; it will help the state meet our GHG reduction targets, open up an untapped market segment for a growing solar industry and free up some funds for low-income families, so they need not make a choice between keeping the lights on and paying the rent.
Call to Action – The activist in me needs to have a call to action so….
- If you can please send a letter of support on any and all of these bills in particular AB 693.
- There were some other great EJ bills in this session. Check out the California Environmental Justice Alliance website for the latest and greatest information.
- Finally, feel free to reach out to me if you have questions about which wines, beers and Indian meals pair best with these spicy policies.
As always, upwards together!