California politics: Governor Gavin Newsom wants to accelerate key climate goals

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Governor Gavin Newsom wants to accelerate the state’s transition to carbon-free electricity sources and accelerate its schedule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These are among the proposals the Democratic governor has presented to lawmakers as they grapple with how to spend the $19.3 billion climate-earmarked in the state budget. He also wants to establish a permitting policy for projects that would remove carbon dioxide from the air and achieve the state’s 2045 carbon neutrality goal, as well as a ban on new oil wells unless 3,200 feet (975 meters) from homes and schools.

“The ambition of California’s climate goals must match the urgency and scale of the climate crisis,” the Newsom administration wrote in a document distributed to state lawmakers and obtained by The Associated Press. “The growing near-term ambition supports the unprecedented pace of transformation needed in this decade to build the clean energy systems of tomorrow.”

The proposal would be part of the $300 billion state budget. Lawmakers passed the budget earlier this year without knowing how to spend the climate money. Newsom and state legislative leaders have until the end of August to reach an agreement.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from Lakewood, noted that the Assembly had previously approved bills that would do much of what Newsom wants – including making the goal of carbon neutrality a law and set a goal for the elimination of nature-based carbon emissions.

“I would say that I more than support such efforts,” Rendon said in a statement. “I agree with the Governor that California absolutely needs to take more of the same type of action that the Assembly has been working on.”

Brian Dahle, a Republican state senator and Newsom’s opponent in the November election, said he thought the governor’s plan was misplaced. He said California should spend money thinning out overgrown forests, which catch fire too easily and release a lot of carbon into the atmosphere.

“Put it all on the table and let’s reduce the carbon,” he said. “He’s going to set a goal and (the legislature) will probably pass that goal, and he’s going to take a victory lap and say ‘I saved everyone in the world’ and nothing changed.”

California already has some of the most ambitious goals in the country to get rid of fossil fuels by switching to electric cars and appliances. State air quality officials have already adopted or proposed a number of new rules to achieve these goals, including banning the sale of new gas-powered lawn equipment, banning the sale new gas-powered passenger vehicles by 2035 and California’s all-electric requirement. come from renewable sources – such as solar and wind power – by 2045.

Newsom’s proposal goes even further. The state, for example, is required to ensure its greenhouse gas emissions are 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Newsom wants to change that to a 55% reduction. Heads of state have pledged to make the state “carbon neutral” by 2045, meaning it would remove as much carbon dioxide from the air as it emits. Newsom’s proposal would turn this from a goal into a law.

Setting more ambitious goals is a good start, but making sure they’re implemented is more important, said Danny Cullenward, a lawyer and economist who focuses on California’s climate policy and sits on a panel that oversees the state’s cap and trade program. He was particularly skeptical of increasing the 2030 emissions reduction target, as many observers believe the state is not on track to meet existing, more modest goals.

“If it gives an opportunity to have an honest conversation about implementation, that’s unambiguously positive,” he said. “But I’m afraid we haven’t had that conversation.”

Still, he said he was excited about Newsom’s proposal to set short-term goals to ensure more of the state’s electricity comes from renewable, non-carbon sources. It wouldn’t change the state’s requirement that 100% of its electricity for retail sales be zero emissions by 2045, but it would set interim benchmarks to ensure the state more quickly develops solar and wind projects.

Renewable electricity is better for the environment, but it is not as reliable as traditional energy sources like burning coal and natural gas. Solar and wind power are weather-dependent, and the state does not have enough batteries to store excess power for use at night. The state’s hydroelectric plants have been hit by a severe drought that has shrunk the state’s reservoirs.

Two years ago, California ran out of power during an extreme heat event, causing blackouts that affected hundreds of thousands of customers.

Newsom vowed not to let this happen again. He said his plan would maintain reliability while keeping people’s electricity bills affordable. Both goals will be a challenge. Newsom has previously signaled its willingness to harness fossil fuel-powered power sources to avoid blackouts if needed during the hot summer months. Meanwhile, California’s electricity rates are already among the highest in the country.

“Achieving our goals of 100 percent clean electricity by 2045 remains the key to fighting climate change and preventing these weather conditions in the first place,” said State Sen. Josh Becker, Democrat and President of the Senate. Energy, Utilities and Communications Sub-Committee on the Future of Clean Energy.

Newsom also wants new state law to ensure that new oil and gas wells in California are no closer than 3,200 feet (975 meters) to homes, schools, parks and businesses. other community sites. The state’s oil and gas regulator proposed the same setback distance last October, but it’s not yet the law.

Like the regulator’s proposal, Newsom would not shut down oil and gas wells already in that buffer zone. About two million Californians live within this distance of oil and gas wells. Instead, it offers health and safety checks for those existing wells.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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