As an environmental lobbyist I have the privilege of being much closer than the average person to decisions about climate policy and the decision makers with the power to pass policies to solve the climate crisis. This happens to be why I’m more terrified of the future than the average person. I’ve seen first hand just how difficult it is in California to pass basic policies that protect people from pollution and the worsening public health and safety impacts of fossil fuels.
This year so far, the majority of legislation introduced in California that would have moved the needle on addressing the climate crisis has been stalled in the legislative process due to lack of support. SB 467, which would have phased out dangerous oil drilling methods like fracking and stopped the practice of oil drilling next to people’s homes, was voted down by the State Senate’s Natural Resources and Water committee. SB 260, which would have required large corporations to publicly disclose their entire carbon footprints and create a report to show how much the largest corporations would have to reduce their emissions in order to avoid global temperature increases over 1.5 degrees Celsius, was stalled by the Senate Appropriations committee, putting the bill on pause until 2022. SB 342 would have added two environmental justice representatives to the governing board of the air pollution control agency for a large portion of Southern California, which is home to about half of the state’s population and suffers from some of the worst air quality in the nation, failed to come up for a vote on the Senate floor because there weren’t enough Senators willing to support the bill. These are just a few examples where Senators have stalled or stopped significant legislation that would have gone far in addressing pollution and the climate crisis because they’re beholden to the interests of polluting industries, big tech, and the business community broadly.
We need the public to understand how dire the situation is in the California State Capitol, where those advocating for a livable future are constantly drowned out and defeated by corporate interests with more money and political power. State Legislators will tell you that it’s more complicated than that, that it’s because of their district, their constituents wouldn’t support them voting for a certain environmental policy, or it’s because of their concern that the policy will have too high of an economic cost. Yet the human and economic cost of inaction continues to prove to be far greater. When will it be enough? People are literally dying from extreme heat waves, wildfires, exposure to toxic pollution, and poor air quality. We’re in an ongoing drought and we aren’t bringing on new sources of clean energy nearly fast enough.
The reality of why we’re here today is that our state has a history of policies that manufactured our dependence on fossil fuels, which created deep economic and racial inequality in the process. We will not adequately protect people’s lives from climate catastrophe until we address the root causes of the climate crisis through policy change. We need Governor Newsom and State Legislators to undo past harms in a way that is cognizant to this history and that is just as intentional, thoughtful, and aggressive in creating a livable future. We need our state leaders to have the courage to execute a clear vision for solving the climate crisis at the scale and pace necessary to save our lives.
Legislators and Gov. Newsom still have time to make sure 2021 doesn’t end as yet another year of climate inaction. The State Legislature has until mid-September to send climate bills to the Governor’s desk. We’ll be watching closely to make sure they do, but I implore the public to please call your State Assemblymember and State Senator and remind them that you’ll stand with them when they champion bold climate action and fight against powerful corporate interests.
Melissa Romero, Californian League of Conservation Voter’s (CLCV) Legislative Affairs Manager, authored this blog.