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2022 California Legislative Updates

August ended with a Bang! The CA legislature approved 3,200 ft Setbacks on New and Existing Oil Wells as well as concerning laws advancing climate dead-end “carbon capture” in California and enabling the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant to operate beyond its planned closure.

CA legislature Approves 3,200 ft. Setbacks on New and Existing Oil Wells

As a founding member of the VISION coalition, PSR-LA is thrilled to have secured a significant victory with our statewide environmental justice partners in the fight to address oil drilling in neighborhoods. The California Legislature approved SB 1137 (co-authored by Senators Lena Gonzalez and Monica Limon) by a vote of 25-10. SB 1137, if signed by Governor Newsom by September 30th, will prevent new permits for oil and gas drilling within a 3,200ft health and safety zone. The bill will also create a pathway to end existing drilling in the setback zone by prohibiting operators from seeking rework permits and through a broad set of engineering and pollution controls. This victory comes after years of organizing and advocacy led by directly impacted frontline communities and two previous efforts to pass such a policy. A major step in California’s transition away from fossil fuels, this bill addresses one of the most egregious manifestations of environmental racism — oil drilling in neighborhoods. Read VISION’s press release here

Climate Dead End “Carbon Capture” in California

While we relish this momentous victory, we still face some concerns. PSR-LA and our partners are alarmed by two bills the legislature passed to promote carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) in California. This climate dead end was pushed by fossil fuel and other dirty industries to prolong their lives while avoiding desperately needed reductions in direct emissions. The two bills in question are SB1279 and SB905. As it stands, SB1279 sets an ambitious new target for the reduction of greenhouse and “carbon neutrality” — but explicitly points to the CCUS as a core strategy. At the same time, SB905 will create a new state program to expedite carbon capture projects’ development, deployment, and permitting. These bills were approved despite clear evidence that CCUS has a track record of failure in reducing carbon emissions while also involving major threats to health and safety from increased air and water pollutants and the risk of catastrophic leaks of stored carbon. While SB905 does create some leverage to protect environmental justice communities from the worst impacts of carbon capture, we know that this is the wrong direction overall for our state. PSR-LA will continue to organize and fight to protect communities from the impacts of CCUS and minimize the negative impacts of this climate dead end.

CA Senate Keeps Dangerous Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Open

The legislature passed SB 846 which was introduced at the last minute to provide PG&E a 1.4 billion loan to keep the dangerous Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors operating years longer than promised, breaching a critical 2016 agreement between PG&E and environmental organizations to phase it out by 2025. Built on the presumption of no active earthquake faults within 30 kilometers, it is now known there are 4 nearby active faults capable of larger quakes than the plant was designed for. One fault comes within 600 meters of the plant. The reactors are aging, with critical upgrades being avoided because of the presumed shutdown in 2025. Spending billions of dollars on the aging Diablo nuclear plant also diverts resources that should be used for far more cost-effective renewables and storage that are essential for dealing with climate change. 

While winning oil and gas buffer zones demonstrates the power of grassroots organizing and advocacy, the final negotiations over the entire package of climate-related bills approved also show the ongoing entrenched political influence of polluting industries. By making grassroots power-building our focus, we hope to avoid future scenarios where environmental justice communities are forced to accept one set of harms while successfully pushing back another set. PSR-LA continues to develop our grassroots power-building strategy to change the game in state and national politics.

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