What’s Current? Issue #20 – Energy and Water Killing Legislation

As we move into the final month of 2023, it is appropriate to review recent legislative actions that will have a significant impact on California’s ability to deliver abundant and affordable energy and water to its residents. There isn’t much good news. Almost without exception, the California Legislature is making energy and water scarce and expensive, the opposite of what ought to be an obligation of government policy. And to make it harder for voters to take matters into their own hands, our lawmakers have also targeted the initiative process. Here are some of the year’s biggest bloopers, courtesy of our green saviors in Sacramento.

Pathways to 30×30 California

Issued by the California Natural Resources Agency in April 2022, this report provides a plan to “preserve” 30 percent of California’s land and 30 percent of California’s coastal waters by 2030. Following the recommendations made in this report, earlier this year Senate Bill 337 was signed into law. Because the state can’t afford to purchase so much land, through this law it empowers state agencies to enact what are in effect zoning restrictions and to support private investments in conservancies. But will it actually help nature? The most mismanaged land in California is our 20 million acres of National Forests, and the healthiest and most biodiverse forests are the roughly 4 million acres of industrially managed private timberlands. This land (and sea) grab by the government is no guarantee that biodiversity will be preserved, but it will take away the ability for people to live on the land or benefit from its resources.

California Offshore Wind Energy & Jobs Act

The Newsom administration, in coordination with the Biden administration, has declared a goal for California to install 25 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2045. Doing this would require a minimum of 2,500 wind turbines (10 megawatts each, which is probably bigger than they’ll end up using), each one over 1,000 feet in height and 20 miles offshore, each one dangling a high voltage power line and at least three tethering cables anchored to the sea floor 4,000 feet down. As discussed in detail in WC #14, this will be an environmental and financial catastrophe. There’s a reason developers have already pulled out of projects in the North Sea and off the East Coast of the U.S. But they’re confident California will hand over sufficient billions in subsidies to make it happen.

Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act

Any corporation with worldwide revenue in excess of $1 billion, from now on, will need to report their greenhouse gas emissions to the State Air Resources Board if they want to continue to do business in California. This legislation is a gift to the burgeoning carbon accounting industry. Imagine having to come up with a report, every year, on all this: “emissions activities that include, but are not limited to, company operations, supply chain activities, employee and consumer transportation, goods production and movement, construction, land use, and natural resource extraction.” Also in the bill, annual independent audits of these reports and reduction plans. How many more businesses will leave the state rather than perform this costly, intrusive, and very subjective exercise? And how long before this law applies to smaller companies?

California Oil and Gas Well Regulations Referendum (2024)

Senate Bill 1137, which would have taken effect in January 2023, poses an existential threat to California’s oil and gas industry. It defines “health protection zones” as any area within 3,200 feet of an inhabited dwelling or business open to the public. It then prohibits new drilling for oil or gas in these designated areas, and imposes punitive regulations on any existing wells in these areas. Never mind that California now imports 75 percent of its oil, and 90 percent of its natural gas. Rather than encourage clean drilling to set an example for other nations, SB 1137 is just the latest attempt by California’s state legislature to eliminate in-state production of oil and gas. The industry is fighting back, with a must-win referendum to repeal SB 1137 that they’ve qualified for the November 2024 ballot.