Legislative/Policy Team Highlights (April Recap)
350 Silicon Valley’s amazingly on-it Legislation/Policy volunteers have been following a slew of climate/environmental bills this session: reviewing bills and amendments, debating positions, signing petitions, writing letters of support or opposition, and participating, remotely, in policy committee hearings in Sacramento. And, we’ve met with all of our local Assembly members and Senators to discuss our priorities and theirs.
We’re about a third of the way through the 2021 legislative calendar. That is, we’ve still got a crowded schedule of policy committee hearings, Appropriations Committee do-or-die decisions, and floor votes on the survivors by June 4—in the “house of origin,” coming up. After that, with time out for voting on the budget and a summer recess, the process starts all over for bills in the “second house.” The second part of the session is shorter, on the premise that much weeding of bills has happened by then. We’ll see. Some highlights so far:
SB 467, Senator Scott Wiener’s bill that would have phased out fracking by 2035 and instituted 2500-ft buffer zones around oil/gas operations, died in its first policy committee. (See the LA Times editorial board’s take here.) This was disappointing, but it may have been predictable, as the bill was a giant target for both unions and the fossil fuel industry. Following the defeat, advocates were hoping the bill could be brought back as a setbacks bill (similar to AB 345, defeated at the end of the last session), but we didn't have the votes to do so.
The Leg. Team has gotten deep into several bills aiming to smooth the way for development of hydrogen-powered electric vehicles (mostly big trucks and buses) and hydrogen charging infrastructure. Our issue is the definition of “green hydrogen” or “green electrolytic hydrogen.” Making hydrogen fuel is very energy intensive, and our concern is that all of the hydrogen California supports or invests in is made with 100 percent clean electricity. We are advocating for a definition of "green electrolytic hydrogen" that a) excludes all forms of fossil methane, biomass, biogas, or biofuels as feedstocks, and b) requires the electrolysis of water to be powered by clean renewable energy (e.g., geothermal, tidal, wind, or solar) or existing nuclear power.
Two carbon risk disclosure bills are looking like they may survive to floor votes in the Senate. 350 Silicon Valley has written and circulated a support letter, signed by nearly 60 organizations so far, urging passage of SB 449 (Stern), which requires companies and licensed entities with revenues of at least $500,000 to annually disclose their climate-related financial risk. SB 260 (Wiener) requires all companies doing more than one billion dollars in business to report their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions (scopes 1, 2, and 3) annually to the Air Resources Board (CARB), which will make them public. Both bills are high priorities for 350 Silicon Valley and are being watched by divestment advocates and fossil fuel resisters around the country. If we can pass them both, California will have set a new standard for climate risk disclosure in the U.S.