California Pushes Its Aggressive Climate Action Plans Forward

Undeterred by the snickering of reactionaries to its plan to eliminate the sale of light duty cars and trucks by 2035, California this week pushed its climate agenda forward again with several more pieces of legislation. According to a press release from the office of Governor Gavin Newsom, the package of new laws will cut pollution, protect Californians from big polluters, and accelerate the state’s transition to clean energy.

In partnership with legislative leaders, the new legislation package promises to achieve carbon neutrality for the state no later than 2045 and 90% clean energy by 2035. It will also establish new setback measures to protect communities from oil drilling, support carbon initiatives, and advance nature based solutions to global warming. California is investing $54 billion in these programs, which is more than many nations are doing. Those investments will provide economic opportunities and environmental justice in communities throughout the state.

The Governor’s office says that over the next two decades, the California Climate Commitment will:

  • Create 4 million new jobs
  • Cut air pollution by 60%
  • Reduce state oil consumption by 91%
  • Save California $23 billion by avoiding the damages of pollution
  • Reduce fossil fuel use in buildings and transportation by 92%
  • Cut refinery pollution by 94%

“This month has been a wake-up call for all of us that later is too late to act on climate change. California isn’t waiting any more,” said Newsom. “Together with the Legislature, California is taking the most aggressive action on climate our nation has ever seen. We’re cleaning the air we breathe, holding the big polluters accountable, and ushering in a new era for clean energy. That’s climate action done the California Way — and we’re not only doubling down, we’re just getting started.”

“Our state has been facing extreme temperatures, putting our communities, especially our most vulnerable neighbors, at risk. We’re also continuing to deal with an historic drought and the ongoing threat of wildfires. The challenges of climate change are here, and this Legislative session, we took bold action to address these severe conditions and mitigate future risk both through our state budget and key legislation,” said Senate President pro tem Toni G. Atkins.

“We established ambitious and necessary goals to reduce carbon emission and increase renewable energy. We provided the tools industry needs to capture and store carbon before it hits the atmosphere. And we invested in critical infrastructure programs that will keep us firmly planted on the path to a greener future, while simultaneously creating jobs that will support families across the state. California has, and will continue to, lead the nation on not only addressing the worsening climate crisis, but finding proactive solutions.”

The climate package signed today includes:

  • Carbon Neutrality — AB 1279 codifies the statewide carbon neutrality goal to dramatically reduce climate pollution. It establishes a clear, legally binding, and achievable goal for California to achieve statewide carbon neutrality as soon as possible but no later than 2045 It sets a goal of reducing emissions statewide by 85% as part of that goal.
  • Protect Communities Against Oil Drilling — SB 1137 protects communities from the harmful impacts of the oil industry. If establishes a setback distance of 3,200 feet between any new oil well and homes, schools, parks or businesses open to the public. Ir also ensures comprehensive pollution controls for existing oil wells within 3,200 feet of these facilities.
  • 100% Clean Electric Grid — SB 1020 establishes a pathway toward the state’s clean energy future. It creates clean electricity targets of 90% by 2035 and 95% by 2040 with the intent of advancing the state’s trajectory to the existing 100% clean electricity retail sales by 2045 goal.
  • Capturing And Removing Carbon Pollution — SB 905 and SB 1314 advance engineered technologies to remove carbon pollution while banning the use of those technologies for enhanced oil recovery. They establish a clear regulatory framework for carbon removal and carbon capture, utilization and sequestration and bans the practice of injecting carbon dioxide into wells for the purpose of enhancing oil recovery.
  • Nature Based Solutions — AB 1757 enlists nature in the state’s climate agenda. It requires the state to develop an achievable carbon removal target for natural and working lands.

In a July letter to the Chair of the California Air Resources Board, Governor Newsom called for the state to ensure that the 2022 Climate Change Scoping Plan provides a path to achieve both the 2030 climate goal and state carbon neutrality no later than 2045. He further requested the final plan incorporate new efforts to advance offshore wind, clean fuels, climate friendly homes, carbon removal, and action to reduce methane leaks.

California Gets Approval For Expansion Of EV Charging Infrastructure

Also this week, the federal government has approved a joint plan by Caltrans and the California Energy Commission to expand EV charging facilities within the state. In a separate press release, the California Energy Commission announced it will now be able to begin using federal infrastructure funds to expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations along the state’s interstates and highways. This follows the approval by the US Joint Office of Energy and Transportation’s of California’s deployment plan pursuant to he National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program.

That approval makes $56 million in funding available immediately to pay for the installation of charging stations throughout the state. Funded by the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA), California expects to receive a total of $384 million for the program over the next five years. The federal funding will build on California’s historic $10 billion, multiyear investment to accelerate the transition to zero emission vehicles by improving affordability and expanding charging infrastructure.

“Thanks to the Biden-Harris administration’s approval of California’s NEVI plan, we can start putting historic levels of federal infrastructure funding to work to close gaps in our state highway system’s evolving EV charging network and improve availability and reliability for low-income and rural residents,” said California transportation secretary Toks Omishakin. “Coupled with unprecedented levels of state investments in zero-emission vehicles, this funding will help supercharge California’s nation-leading efforts to drastically cut climate-changing pollution from the transportation sector.”

The federal funds will enhance efforts to complete a 6,600-mile statewide charging network and deploy 1.2 million chargers by 2030 to meet the anticipated charging needs of the state’s EV fleet.

“With this unprecedented federal investment, California can advance our vision of a unified network of charging stations along the state’s busiest corridors,” said California Energy Commission commissioner Patty Monahan. “This new network will increase charging access, particularly in the rural areas of our state, and help EV drivers charge up on long trips.”

The state’s NEVI plan focuses on construction of DC fast charging stations near national and state transportation routes throughout California. Those charging stations will increase the availability of charging options, improve the reliability of the charging network, and remove barriers to buying or leasing electric cars. NEVI funding will also support upgrades to existing infrastructure, charging stations maintenance costs, community and stakeholder engagement, workforce development, and related mapping and signage.

The Takeaway

There are more zero emission vehicles and public chargers in California than any other state. It also leads in terms of EV production, thanks to Tesla’s factory in Fremont. Tongues are wagging on Faux News and social media about how California is spending tons of money to cut its emissions, strengthen its electrical grid, and promote more renewable energy.

But here’s the thing. The detractors prefer to take no action to address the expanding global climate emergency. California at least has a plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, according to an ancient bit of wisdom. Soon the do-nothing, know-nothing crowd will be looking around and wondering what happened as climate change upends their comfortable existence. California may not succeed in all its goals, but at least it has goals, which are essential to address any challenge effectively.


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