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in the KNOW

March 9, 2013

Sen. Hill Named New Chair

Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo)

This past week, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg nominated Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) as Chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality. The recent, unexpected retirement of Senator Michael Rubio (D-Shafter) created a vacancy in the position of committee chair. Senator Hill is also Chair of the Senate Majority Caucus.

Regarding the nomination, Senator Steinberg said that Senator Hill, “is well-positioned to appreciate the complexities of this challenge and well-versed in the false dichotomy that pitches business against the environment. California has led, and will continue to lead the nation in smart, environmentally sustainable economic growth.”

The Committee, under Rubio, was set to lead the way on reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and avoid or mitigate those impacts, if possible. Governor Jerry Brown has made several public statements supporting CEQA improvements while many environmental groups strongly oppose CEQA reform.

Special Election to Fill Valley Seat

Governor Jerry Brown announced on Friday that a special election to fill State Senator Rubio’s seat will take place on May 21, 2013. If a candidate does not receive a majority of the vote in May, the top-two vote recipients will compete in a July 23 election.

Speculation abounds about who will run for election in this southern San Joaquin Valley seat, which includes parts of Fresno, Kings, Kern and Tulare counties. Read more in a SacBee article HERE.

Tractor Rule Workshops

Workshops on the mobile ag regulation, known as the “tractor rule,” will be held by California Air Resources Board (ARB) next week.

The first workshop is in Fresno on March 14 at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District at 1:30 p.m. with a live video feed in both Modesto and Bakersfield (see link below for details). A second workshop is in Sacramento on March 15 at the California Air Resources Board-Coastal Hearing Room at 1:30 p.m. with a webcast of the workshop also taking place. For further workshop details and video feed information, click HERE.

As background, ARB staff announced recently that implementation of the first phase of the tractor rule will be limited to the San Joaquin Valley and its eight counties. In 2007, ARB committed to developing a plan for in-use ag equipment by 2013 with the goal to accelerate fleet turnover to equipment with engines meeting the cleanest new engine NOx standard. This commitment was made by the state in order to meet federal Clean Air Act requirements.

For more details about the tractor rule, click HERE for a link to the ARB website.

Water Legislation

Several bills to improve drinking water in disadvantaged communities are pending in the Legislature. Ag Council is keeping a close watch on the bills, some of which are a response to the recent report on nitrate in groundwater by the State Water Resources Control Board and others are recommendations from the Governor’s Drinking Water Stakeholder Group.

A hearing will be held next week on some of the measures-a few of which are detailed below. The list is not comprehensive of all pending water bills. Also, please keep in mind that state bills continually change throughout the legislative process. Given it is still early in the legislative year, outcomes will likely not be known for several months.

The following bills, among others, will be heard in the Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials on March 12:

AB 115-authored by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno)
This bill would authorize the Department of Public Health to fund projects where multiple water systems apply for funding as a single applicant in order to consolidate water systems or extend services to households with private wells. Among other purposes, the bill would allow funding of a project to benefit a disadvantaged community that is not the applying agency.

AB 118- authored by the Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, Chair is Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville)
AB 118 would require an applicant for funding from the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to demonstrate that it has the technical, managerial, and financial capacity to operate and maintain its water system for at least 20 years, as specified. Among other provisions, it also would authorize an applicant to receive up to the full cost of a project in the form of a loan.

AB 119-authored by the Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, Chair is Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville)
AB 119 would require each manufacturer selling a water treatment device in California for which it makes a health or safety claim to submit specified information to the department to include on the Department of Public Health’s website. This bill would also mandate each manufacturer to pay a reasonable regulatory fee to pay for the cost of publishing information on the department’s website and for conducting enforcement actions.

AB 69-authored by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno)
This bill is a placeholder measure, called a “spot bill,” pertaining to nitrate in groundwater. More details will be forthcoming on this measure as a specific proposal is developed.

Water Bond Hearing

On March 12, Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) and Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) will conduct an informational hearing on the water bond. The hearing entitled, “What’s Changed Since the Legislature Passed the Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Act of 2010?” will be held jointly by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water and the Select Committee on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

After being postponed twice, the water bond is set for the November 4, 2014 statewide ballot. Governor Brown has said he intends to give his “full attention” to water, and the Legislature expects to take-up water bond legislation this year in preparation for the 2014 ballot measure. Ag Council will continue to keep our members apprised of pertinent information regarding the water bond throughout the year.