California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a landmark climate change bill Wednesday, continuing to follow through on a promise to “ratchet up” the state’s commitment to renewable energy.
With downtown Los Angeles’ silhouette peeking through a blanket of smog covering the Los Angeles basin, Brown called Senate Bill 350 a “global marker” of California’s efforts to transform the state and world’s air pollution policies.
“It’s going to be a long march to transition the entire modern world to a de-carbonized future,” Brown said during a ceremony at California’s iconic Griffith Observatory.
The sweeping energy bill commits the Golden State to getting half of its electricity from renewable sources and doubling the efficiency of its buildings by 2030.
SB 350 was led by state Senate President Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, and initially contained a provision to reduce gasoline use in cars by 50 percent. The provision was removed after a barrage of advertisements and lobbying from the oil industry.
The oil reduction provision was slashed by Brown and De Leon just days before facing a final vote in the state Assembly. Despite holding a large majority, the Democrats could not gain support from several moderate Democrats and a host of Republicans.
Despite being forced to remove the gasoline amendment, Brown said the weakened bill is still important and sets a precedent for future climate change policy.
“California through this bill is taking a major step; other people are going to follow,” Brown said. “But it’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to come overnight.”
De Leon said the bill will benefit public health by clearing the air of pollutants and allowing residents living near freeways to “breathe easier.”
“Today we open a dynamic frontier in our state’s historic fight to protect our precious environment and construct the clean energy future that Californians’ children and grandchildren deserve,” he said.
In spite of the push from the deep pockets of the oil industry, lawmakers must follow up SB 350 with a plan to curb the state’s oil use and production, said Brian Nowicki with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“It’s disappointing that the oil industry has such political power in California that it could sabotage a common-sense measure to reduce our dangerous dependency on dirty fossil fuels,” Nowicki said.
Republican lawmakers, including Assemblyman Brian Jones of Santee, blasted SB 350 for excluding energy produced by residential solar power from its renewable-energy mandate.
“All renewable sources should count toward reaching the 50 percent goal,” Jones said in statement. “We should not be excluding the 200,000 Californians who are doing their part to make clean energy a reality.”
More solar and wind power plants are expected under De Leon’s bill as well as a provision that creates thousands of new charging stations for electric vehicles across the state.
“We accepted that air pollution was the cost of doing business,” the senate leader said. “Today, we prove otherwise.”
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