climate in crisis

Newsom Signs California's Sweeping New Climate Change Package

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a suite of bills Friday intended to mitigate the effects of climate change, reduce pollution and hasten the state's transition to renewable energy use.

California is now legally bound under a law Newsom signed to become sustainably carbon neutral by 2045 at the latest. As part of that target, the state also plans to reduce carbon emissions by 85 percent by 2045 and dedicate 90 percent of the state's electrical grid to clean energy by 2035.

New oil wells will also be required to remain at least 3,200 feet from homes, schools, parks or businesses open to the public under a bill Newsom signed while also limiting pollution levels for existing oil wells that sit within 3,200 feet of public buildings.

Newsom said the roughly 40 bills -- which also include efforts to capture atmospheric carbon, streamline permitting for solar panel arrays and safely recycle obsolete batteries -- amount to the most aggressive action any state has ever taken to combat climate change.

"We're not interested in investing in the industries that have created the problems that we're trying to mitigate," Newsom said at a bill signing ceremony with more than a dozen state legislators on Mare Island in Vallejo.

State officials estimate the legislative package, part of the state's broader California Climate Commitment, will reduce air pollution by 60 percent, reduce oil use by 91 percent and save the state $23 billion by reducing and avoiding environmental pollution over the next two decades.

Laura Deehan, state director for the environmental nonprofit Environment California, called the bill signing a "transformative day" for the state's effort to mitigate climate change and argued the state has more than enough potential for renewable energy.

"The solutions are everywhere all around us," she said. "Every single day the sun comes up, there's more sunlight that hits the Earth in one hour than our entire globe's current energy needs for a whole year. Off the California coast, we have enough potential wind energy that we could meet all of our energy needs just from offshore wind alone."

Newsom said he expects the bills he signed Friday and the state's broader climate policies will be a model for other states in the future as the effects of climate change become more pronounced.

“We could talk about the way the world should be and protest it or we can actually make demonstrable progress," he said. "And we took the latter approach here."

The legislation signed Friday includes:

Carbon Neutrality (AB 1279): Establishes an achievable goal for California to achieve statewide carbon neutrality as soon as possible and no later than 2045. It also establishes an 85% emissions reduction target as part of that goal.

100% Clean Electric Grid (SB 1020): Creates clean electricity targets of 90% by 2035 and 95% by 2040 with the intent of advancing to the existing 100% clean electricity retail sales by 2045.

Protect Communities Against Oil Drilling (SB 1137): Establishes a setback distance of 3,200 feet between new oil wells and homes, schools, parks or businesses. Ensures comprehensive pollution controls for existing oil wells within 3,200 feet of these facilities.

Bay City News contributed to the report.

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