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in the KNOW

May 1, 2015

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The State Capitol was bustling with activity in early May given the deadline for policy committees to hear and report fiscal bills to fiscal committees. Ag Council is engaged in and lobbying on legislation relating to water, climate change, excavation and other issues. In addition, Governor Jerry Brown made two major announcements pertaining to water and climate change this week. Please read on for further details.

 Legislation Considered this Week

AB 1390 (Alejo) – Groundwater Adjudications 
Ag Council supports Assemblyman Alejo’s (D-Watsonville) legislation pertaining to groundwater adjudications. The bill streamlines the groundwater adjudication process by which courts may undertake determinations of groundwater rights in a basin. AB 1390 protects water rights. The measure passed the Assembly Committee on Judiciary on April 28 where Ag Council spoke in favor of the bill. It now awaits action in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

SB 226 (Pavley) — Groundwater
Ag Council is strongly opposed to this groundwater bill by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) because the measure makes changes to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, approved in 2014, in a manner that raises concerns about water rights. SB 226 authorizes the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to intervene in a court proceeding to determine water rights if those agencies assert an interest in the proceeding.

AB 226 passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary on April 28 where Ag Council opposed the bill, and it is pending in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

SB 20 (Pavley) – Well Logs 
Ag Council opposes legislation by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to make well logs publicly available. Agencies that need well log data already have access to the information. This data is confidential and releasing it to the public does not provide any advantage, except to render it subject to litigation.

SB 20 is pending in the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Ag Council is working with a coalition to build opposition to the measure in the Senate.

AB 1242 (Gray) — Impacts on Groundwater Basins 
Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) introduced AB 1242 in response to the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposal to divert 350,000 acre-feet of water away from irrigators and municipalities on the Merced, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne rivers.

The bill requires the State Water Resources Control Board to take into account impacts on groundwater basins and consider alternatives when adopting or approving a water quality control plan. It also bars the Board from adopting plans without mitigating measures to minimize significant adverse impacts. Ag Council supports the bill.

On April 27, during consideration in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, Assemblyman Gray accepted amendments to require the State Water Resources Control Board to identify projects to restore fish populations rather than diverting water from local agencies. AB 1242 passed the Natural Resources Committee with the amendments on April 27 where Ag Council supported the measure. The bill moves to consideration in the Committee on Appropriations.

AB 311 (Gallagher) —Water Infrastructure
This measure to fast track water infrastructure projects funded by the water bond failed to pass this week during a hearing in the Natural Resources Committee.

In an attempt to build support for AB 311, Assemblyman Gallagher (R-Nicolaus) and others held a rally at the State Capitol to tout the merits of the bill. The rally was attended by many in the ag community, including Ag Council members. Unfortunately, the measure failed passage on reconsideration in the Natural Resources Committee. The bill, authored by Assemblyman Gallagher, would have provided the same streamlined environmental reviews that were given to the new entertainment and sports arena in Sacramento, which is now under construction.

SB 119 (Hill) – Excavations/811-Call Before You Dig
SB 119 establishes enforcement provisions relating to excavation violations under the 811-Call Before You Dig program. It is authored by Senator Hill (D-San Mateo). Ag Council recently participated in developing amendments to SB 119, along with others in the ag community, to address our concerns. The amendments limit the circumstances around which farmers and landowners must call 811. After recently receiving a commitment from the author that our amendments are acceptable, we are working to ensure the amendment language is included in SB 119 as the bill moves forward. The bill is pending review in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

SB 687 (Allen) – Biomethane mandate
AB 687 by Senator Allen (D-Santa Monica) creates a biomethane mandate. Ag Council is opposed to SB 687 because this measure would lead to higher costs, is a double tax on businesses in the cap & trade program and makes California businesses less competitive. SB 687 was approved by the Senate Committee on the Environmental Quality Committee on April 29 and is pending in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Gov. Brown Unveils New Water Proposal

On April 30, Governor Brown released a plan to fix California’s water infrastructure system and accelerate Delta environmental projects, such as critical habitat, wetlands and floodplain restoration.

The plan includes a “refined tunnel option” supported by the Governor.  It is about half the size of the previous tunnel proposal, allows for gravity flow and lowers the electricity requirements.  Revised environmental documents for the proposal will be made public and available for comment in June 2015.  The cost of the project, estimated at $14.9 billion, will be paid for by the water agencies that benefit from the project.

Brown said, “We can’t just cross our fingers, hoping for the best in the Delta. Fish populations are at an all-time low. Bold action is imperative. We’ve listened to the public and carefully studied the science. This revised plan is the absolute best path forward.”

Click HERE for detailed information about the proposal.

Gov Brown Announces Aggressive Emissions Targets

On April 29, Governor Brown issued an executive order establishing an aggressive target for California to reduce greenhhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030. The Governor views this action as an interim step toward later attaining an 80 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050. You can read the governor’s statement HERE.

The state is working toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020 under the existing cap and trade program established by the Air Resources Board (ARB) to implement the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which was signed into law in 2006.

Ag Council has members participating in the existing cap and trade program, and we are concerned about this extreme move by Governor Brown and are engaged in this issue.

In the Legislature, Ag Council opposes SB 32 by Senator Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. SB 32 was approved by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 29 and is under consideration in the Committee on Appropriations.

Ag Council supports AB 21 by Assemblyman Perea (D-Fresno) directing the ARB to recommend a 2030 target for cost-effective statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions to the Legislature and the Governor by Jan. 1, 2018 and consult with other state agencies regarding energy efficiency and electrification of the transportation system. AB 21 passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on April 28.