California may oppose Trump on environmental rollbacks

SACRAMENTO
February 24, 2017 10:16am
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•  Lawmakers “Environmental Defense” bills

•  “This is pretty straightforward -- just common sense measures”


The California Legislature is considering three bills that their authors say would protect public health, public lands, and protect data if federal laws are weakened by the Trump Administration.

The trio of bills includes protections for public lands, whistleblowers, data, clean air, climate, clean water, worker safety and endangered species.

The California Environmental, Public Health and Workers Defense Act of 2017 by state Sens. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, and Henry Stern, D-Agoura Hills, would ensure that existing federal standards on which the state relies can be maintained, even if the federal government rolls back and weakens those standards.

“The Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress are racing to weaken decades-old environmental and public health protections,” says Mr. De León. “SB 49 makes existing federal laws – like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts – enforceable under California law, so we can preserve the state we know and love, regardless of what happens in Washington.”

“This is pretty straightforward -- just common sense measures to preserve minimum safeguards for clean air and water,” adds Mr. Stern.

The Drilldown

• SB 49: The California Environmental Defense Act

→ Makes current federal clean air, climate, clean water, worker safety, and endangered species standards enforceable under state law, even if the federal government rolls back and weakens those standards.

→ Directs state environmental, public health, and worker safety agencies to take all actions within their authorities to ensure standards in effect and being enforced today continue to remain in effect.

→ Federal laws in these areas set “baselines”, but allow states to adopt more stringent standards. This bill simply ensures CA does not backslide as a result of rollbacks and damage done by the new regime in Washington DC.

→ In 2003, when the Bush Administration attempted to enact similar rollbacks of federal clean air standards, the Legislature passed SB 288 (Chapter 476 statutes of 2003), the Protect CA Air Act. This measure builds on that platform.

• SB 50: The Public Lands Protection Act

→ This measure establishes a new state policy to discourage conveyances of federal lands to private developers for resource extraction and directs the state Lands Commission, which oversees much of the federal lands in the state, to establish a right of first refusal by the state of any federal lands proposed for sale or conveyance to other parties.

→ In doing so, this measure would ensure (a) that the state reviews any transactions involving federal lands here in CA to ensure those lands are protected, and (b) where feasible, important lands are protected via state action.

• SB 51: The Whistleblower and Public Data Protection Act

→ Attorneys, engineers, scientists and other professionals working for federal agencies are often licensed to practice in California. U.S. EPA attorneys and scientists who report cover ups, destruction of information, or other wrongdoing may have federal whistleblower protection but could still lose their professional certifications under California law.

→ This measure would ensure federal employees do not lose state licensure for revealing violations of law, unethical actions or dangers to public health and safety. It also would direct state environmental and public health agencies to protect any information or data under state law, even if parties in Washington DC order their censorship or destruction.

→ In 2003, the Legislature passed a similar law to provide state whistleblower protections (see AB 2713 of 2002). That bill was vetoed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger.

“Californians have voted time and time again to protect our people and preserve our natural resources,” says Ann Notthoff, director of California advocacy for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As the federal government gears up for its unprecedented assault on the environment nationwide, it’s essential that our state is prepared to protect our people and the irreplaceable places that make California so great.”


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