By Annie Notthoff and Jon Colmenares, Natural Resources Defense Council
The new legislative session opened Monday with California State Senate pro Tem Toni Atkins continuing strong environmental leadership by introducing SB 1 – the California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019. The bill would protect California’s environment from efforts by the Trump administration to derail environmental progress. At its core, this new bill makes sure that protections in existence prior to January 19, 2017 under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act are not weakened, and gives California state agencies the authority to enforce these protections under state law. SB 1’s provisions would only be triggered when federal standards dip below certain baseline protections, spurring state action.
This is the latest effort to insulate California from the Trump administration’s damaging rollbacks of environmental protections that citizens have come to rely on. Californians are already suffering from the effects of climate change. California saw the most damaging wildfires in its recent history and is coming off the heels of terrible and persistent drought.
With the U.S. Senate and White House solidly in anti-environment control, state-level action is needed now more than ever. Here are just a few examples why:
Recent Erosions of Protections for Endangered Species:
- Ryan Zinke at the Department of the Interior plans to attack protections under the ESA that threaten California salmon, delta smelt, rivers, and estuaries.
- Efforts to extend the damaging Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act are under consideration in Congress along with several rider bills that exempt water projects like the massive Central Valley Project from review, potentially damaging local water sources and protections for salmon. Holding them accountable to the state Endangered Species Act is imperative.
Recent Erosions of Protections for Clean Air:
- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may be gone, but the attack on the environment continues at the U.S. EPA by allowing polluter states to pollute across state lines at higher threshold than under the Obama administration under new provisions.
- The EPA adopted a loophole that makes it easier for facilities to pollute more by reporting pollution as unrelated to its activities.
Recent Erosions of Protections for Clean Water:
- Exempting the Delta tunnels from judicial review under state and federal law will have damaging effects and will worsen water quality for Delta farmers and communities.
The Trump administration’s onslaught of rollbacks is constant, far-reaching, and threatens California’s wildlife, natural resources, and quality of life. NRDC looks forward to working with Governor-Elect Newsom, legislative leaders, and a broad coalition of environmental and labor groups to combat rollbacks, and Senate Bill 1 is one such way that California can protect itself from Washington.