A California Update

By Utsav Gupta DSC_1008

California is often seen as a leader in environmental policy in the United States. It was the first state to adopt a cap-and-trade program, and currently enjoys the largest solar power market in the country. This article provides an update on the current happenings in California environmental policy.

Just this month, California has: (1) formed a climate deal with China, (2) passed a bill redefining residential rate structures, (3) signed into law a bill on fracking requiring regulations to open up the Monterey Shale to the practice, and (4) passed a bill that makes significant changes to the California Environmental Quality Act.

First, Californian and Chinese officials have announced a climate deal wherein the two sovereigns will work together on clean energy technology and research to reduce greenhouse gases. The agreement calls for a two-year commitment during which both countries will work together on and share new low-carbon technologies.

Second, the California Assembly passed AB 327, which redefines the solar net metering and electricity rate structures. It is on its way for an expected signature by Governor Jerry Brown. The bill was originally attacked by the solar energy industry, which later became a supporter when the bill was amended to extend the solar net metering program. The bill is a rare example of several traditionally opposed groups – utilities, the solar industry, and ratepayer advocates – working together.

Third, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law California’s first regulation on fracking.  The bill “makes it possible for oil companies to unlock California’s vast Monterey Shale deposit.” The bill drew opposition from environmentalists and the oil industry, each feeling that the legislation did not go far enough.

Fourth, the Californian legislature has approved changes to the landmark California Environmental Quality Act. The amendment was made to exempt urban projects from certain environmental reviews concerning parking and aesthetics and to speed up environmental litigation. The changes are short of the rollback sought by business leaders, and was supported by labor and environmental organizations.