(Courthouse News) For more than a year, California lawmakers have debated Senate Bill 100, an ambitious plan that sets the goal of 100 percent clean, reliable and sustainable energy statewide by 2045. The measure passed after overcoming a four-vote shortfall on the Assembly floor.
The bill’s author, state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, applauded Democrats for coming together to support his legislation in a statement after the bill’s passage.
“When it comes to fighting climate change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, California won’t back down. Today, thanks to the leadership my colleagues displayed this afternoon, we have doubled down instead,” said de Leon.
“We have taken another great stride toward a 100 percent clean energy future. SB 100 will spur technological innovation, jump-start new jobs, and keep our air clean for generations to come.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, D-San Diego, carried the bill on the Assembly floor Tuesday.
“SB 100 doesn’t just pave the way to a healthier future for our environment and our children, but the target we aim for today is one that the next generation of scientists, innovators and trades people will be achieving themselves,” Gonzalez-Fletcher said in a statement after the vote.
California continues to set the standard for leadership on policies to prevent climate change from further eroding the safety and health of our great state, and our great nation,” she added.
Several Republicans vociferously opposed the measure, leading to a bizarre scene in which an assemblywoman condemning Chinese human rights violations and environmental mismanagement at Chinese mines was silenced by Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin, a Democrat. Fifty assembly members voted against hearing their colleague out.
Even some Democrats voted against the bill, including Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, who said the measure will create additional strain on low-income residents already dealing with high energy bills.
“This is just another in a laundry list of bills that are discriminatory to the people I represent,” Gray said. “Poor people in my district pay higher rates so that we can look to the future. What you did is raise utility rates on poor people, and everybody else.”
“Climate change requires serious people and serious solutions, not talking points so we can pat ourselves on the back and pretend we did something,” Gray added in asking for a no vote on the floor.
Gray’s district is home to a large hydroelectric power generation facility. The Legislature has limited the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to include only small hydroelectric facilities, of which there were 202 approved by the California Energy Commission as of 2016.
Not lost on supporters of the measure was the lack of discussion about the science of climate change. Still, opponents found plenty to dislike about the bill.
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, was one of the first GOP assembly members to embrace climate change policy, but reservations about the lack of specifics within the legislation led him to vote no. Chavez crossed party lines to work with Gov. Jerry Brown’s office last year to enact renewed cap-and-trade legislation.
“Before the utilities committee, I told them, if you would put in the same safeguards we did in cap-and-trade, I will be a co-author of this bill,” Chavez said. “We submitted them and heard nothing back.
“I look at it before me today, and it says it in generalities. It says nothing specific about reliable, sustainable cost-effective energy. There are not the speed bumps.”
Chavez was not the only climate change-believing Republican calling for a slowdown. Assemblyman Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, pleaded for time to work more on the bill, which has been in the Assembly since it cleared the state Senate in June 2017.
“I think it is important for us to look at this in the interest of all Californians,” Mayes said. “This bill has a few errors, and those errors are that we are picking winners and we are picking losers.”
He added: “Today, let’s hit the pause button. Let’s begin working in the fall, next year, we can try to put a bipartisan plan together.”
In the end, one Republican – Catharine Baker of San Ramon – voted yes, while three Democrats abstained.
The bill heads back to the state Senate for final approval before being sent to Brown’s desk for signature.