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CA Legislators Tout Economic, Job Benefits of Climate Bills

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon discusses his proposed package of climate change legislation, with co-author Senator Mark Leno to his right. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

 Yesterday, California legislators announced a package of bills that aim to show the state's commitment to being a “climate change leader.”

Standing before a backdrop of a men and women representing labor and environmental advocacy, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon set out legislative goals that match those proposed by Governor Jerry Brown in his January inaugural speech. While the goals are environmental, Senator De Leon and his fellow legislators kept the focus on economic benefits and job growth.

The “clean tech” sector, said De Leon, is the fastest growing job sector in the state.

“Choosing between climate change policies and policies that build economic growth is a false choice,” he said. “California has proven that we can create jobs, lower utility bills, and rebuild our infrastructure, while cleaning up the air that we breathe into our lungs.”

Senator De Leon (D-Los Angeles), along with co-author Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), plans to introduce a new bill to achieve Brown's “50-50-50” goals, what De Leon called “the Golden State Standards.” These are:

    • Increasing California's renewable energy to 50 percent
    • Reducing petroleum use in the state by 50 percent
    • Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings by 50 percent

When questioned about specifics, De Leon responded that they will be figured out in the legislative process. “Let the dialogue begin,” he said. “We're looking forward to having a very spirited, hard, open, cooperative, respectful dialogue,” with people from every side of the opinion spectrum.

Another bill included in the “climate change leadership package” is S.B. 32, already introduced by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). Pavley's 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, A.B. 32, set greenhouse gas reduction goals for 2020 and created California's cap-and-trade system, which funds planning and infrastructure projects to reduce emissions.

Pavley's proposed bill seeks to extend the greenhouse gas emissions reductions goal to 2050, to reach 80 percent below 1990 levels. The proposal, consistent with the tone of yesterday's press conference, touts “California’s proven model of growing the economy through pollution reduction,” which would be achieved by  providing “critical government accountability” and “certainty to businesses investing in California for the long term.”

Other bills in the package include S.B. 189 from Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) that would form a new state committee “to advise and inform clean energy and climate actions that ensure maximum job creation and economic benefits to all Californians,” and De Leon's S.B. 185, which directs the two largest state pension funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS) to remove coal companies from their investment portfolios.

No one among the climate leaders nor the assembled press mentioned fracking and its environmental effects, nor the huge protests over that practice that brought people from around the state to Oakland this past weekend.

Instead, they kept the focus on jobs and the economy.  “We need to move the state away from fossil fuels and free consumers from the grip of oil prices,” said De Leon. “An economy built on fossil fuels is an economy built on shifting sands.”

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