CALIFORNIA:

Clock runs out on suite of environmental bills

Legislation raising California's renewable energy standard to 33 percent and bills banning plastic bags and controversial plastic additive bisphenol A died last week as the state legislative session ended.

Failure for the renewable-energy proposal was the fourth since 2007. Sen. Joe Simitian's (D) measure, S.B. 722, had Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) support, but the clock ran down on efforts to reconcile various positions, including that of Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., which wanted a lower in-state power requirement and a higher ceiling on renewable energy credits (Greenwire, Aug. 16).

Schwarzenegger said he is committed to enshrining the renewable energy targets another way. The state Air Resources Board is scheduled to vote on its version of the renewables standard later this month; it had postponed a July vote at Schwarzenegger's request to give lawmakers time to work on their bill. A regulatory fix would leave the standard open to adjustment by future administrations.

"Anything that was not accomplished I will try to get done before I leave office," Schwarzenegger said at a news conference last week to discuss the state's $20 billion budget deficit. "I will continue fighting on environmental issues."

California's bid to become the first state to ban plastic bags failed last week as the Senate voted against it, 14-21.

The bag ban, by Sen. Julia Brownley (D), would have mandated that grocers and liquor store and convenience store proprietors charge a nickel per reusable paper or plastic bag and stop offering free single-use plastic bags. A.B. 1998 died in committee after it was amended to give free bags to poor people and continue in-store bag recycling programs.

And S.B. 797 would have prohibited the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in children's food and drink containers. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had championed the measure as a stepping stone to a nationwide ban of the chemical, which advocates for the ban say is linked to fetal and developmental problems (E&ENews PM, Aug. 23).

Both of the bills' sponsors blamed intense lobbying by the American Chemistry Council and other manufacturing groups.

"Industry lobbyists used their scare tactics on voters by sending direct mail claiming that a BPA ban would be too costly for lower-income families and deprive consumers of access to canned goods," Sen. Fran Pavley (D) said in a release. "It's not true."

Brownley also pointed to the ACC, which ran ads in defense of manufacturing jobs and published surveys showing support for recycling programs over outright bans. "This is an environmental movement that won't be stopped, even by big-money interests like the American Chemistry Council," she said in a statement. "It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when consumers bring their own bags and become good stewards of the environment."

For his part, Tim Shestek, ACC's state affairs director, said, "Plastic bag makers look forward to working with grocers, legislators and environmental groups to develop workable, effective legislation that enables consumer choice, promotes recycling education and encourages a healthy environment and economy."

Bills that passed

Schwarzenegger did sign into law S.B. 535, which extends carpool lane privileges for hybrids with special stickers until July 2011 and creates a new exemption for up to 40,000 cars that meet the state's emissions standard for advanced technology vehicles, a category that includes plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel-cell cars and all-electric cars.

Still awaiting Schwarzenegger's signature:

  • S.B. 929, to ban cadmium in children's jewelry.
  • A.B. 2514, to require the California Public Utilities Commission to set energy storage targets for investor-owned utilities.
  • S.B. 1198, to delay by one year the California Energy Commission's energy efficiency standards for new televisions.