At any given time, most of us naturally tend to place more emphasis on concrete matters that affect us and our families directly than other, more abstract issues that might have an impact at some point down the road. This is especially true of the environment.
When it comes to the environment, we can be proud of our state’s role as a leader and driver of environmental awareness and action. In 1947, Los Angeles was the first city in the country to establish an Air Pollution Control District. That same year, Governor Earl Warren signed into law the Air Pollution Control Act, authorizing an Air Pollution Control District in every county in the state. In 1948, the California Institute of Technology identified chemicals from automobile exhaust as major components of the smog then blanketing parts of Southern California at dangerously high levels. In 1966, the California DMV adopted the firs tailpipe emissions standards in the U.S.
In 1970, the California Environmentally Quality Act, or CEQA, became law and with it the requirement that plans for development projects include explicit evaluation of their potential environmental impact, with other states soon following California’s lead. In 1977, California became the first state in the country to adopt efficiency standards for household appliances. The following year, the state became the first in the nation to adopt energy efficiency standards for new buildings.
In 1991, California environmentalists prevailed over Northern California logging interests in protecting the Northern Spotted Owl’s native habitat. Industry-related employment falls, as predicted, but over time is replaced by other economic activities with less environmental impact. In 2006, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach officially went “green”, reducing the single-largest source of pollution in the Los Angeles basin, with additional innovations and environmental improvements over coming years.
In 2006, California was the first state in the nation to enact comprehensive climate change mitigation legislation, passing AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, mandating a statewide reduction in emissions by 15% overall, to 1990s levels by 2020. In 2013, the California Air Resources Board implemented the nation’s first cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, with the goal of capping and then decreasing emissions at a rate of 3% per year.
All of these milestones are achievements of which Californians can be justifiably proud. In 2015, Governor Brown raised the environmental ante once again by setting a goal of achieving a 50% renewable energy threshold by 2030, up from the 33% goal the state was already on track toward meeting.
Even more impressive than the specific milestones California has achieved is the fact that, despite all of the naysayers along the way, all of this was done without compromising our state’s ability to remain an economic powerhouse as well as an environmental pioneer. This is no small feat.
As with other types of progress, sometimes change comes quickly and on a large scale, and sometimes more incrementally and less easily. California’s massive size and the economy of scale that it creates have allowed it the changes we’ve driven to spur further change beyond its borders.
When it comes to achieving the ideal balance between environmental progress and economic development, though, there is risk in California getting too far ahead of our neighboring states, thereby jeopardizing that ‘ripple effect.” A good example of this is the impact of our state’s rigorous fuel refining standards on the supply and pricing of gasoline in California.
One side effect of California’s more stringent gasoline additive standards is the development of a ‘closed market’ within California for gasoline, making California consumers subject to higher fuel costs than in other states, due to limitations in refining capacity, as well as the possibility of market manipulation by fuel suppliers. The problem of limited refining capacity in California is further compounded by the regulatory, zoning, and political challenges associated with development of additional refining capacity within the state. This is something that California’s state government is going to have to address in some fashion eventually.
Similarly, other very complex issues with environmental and economic development implications are going to demand rigorous debate and thoughtful consideration of the tradeoffs involved in developing comprehensive plans for issues as varied as nuclear power, desalination, water management, ocean acidification, toxic soil remediation, development, and many others. Consequently, it is essential that the members of the state legislature who will bear the burden of devising or approving laws that determine how we as a state address these complex issues be as fully apprised and well versed as possible.
As your state senator, I will not only do the hard work in mastering the details and nuance associated with these complicated and often contentious issues, I will also pledge to you to always strive to find that essential balance, between preserving the environment with minimal economic displacement, unburdened by dogma and free of outside influence. You and you the California your grandchildren will inherit deserve no less.