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These California Environmental Laws Go into Effect in 2023

While some of the new policies’ impacts may not be immediate, the new laws will change the state’s future when it comes to oil and gas buffer zones, carbon capture and storage, renewable energy and more.

Wind turbines on the Montezuma Hills in Solano County
Wind turbines on the Montezuma Hills in Solano County produce renewable energy, powered by the Delta Breeze and currents that blow in from the San Francisco Bay Area, in May 2022.
Xavier Mascareñas/TNS
(TNS) — Several of the environmental bills Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law this fall likely won’t lead to immediate changes for Californians. But they are expected to have profound long term effects.

Here are measures to watch in the new year and beyond:

Oil and Gas Buffer Zones

The immediate future is unclear for SB 1137, which requires 3,200-foot buffer zones between new oil and gas wells and homes, hospitals and schools. Petroleum companies are supporting a referendum to overturn the measure. If it qualifies for the ballot, voters will decide whether the buffers will be enforced.

Authored by Senators Lena Gonzalez, D- Long Beach, and Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, the new law also mandates that well operators meet certain health and environmental requirements in the future.

Gonzalez said in an interview that delaying the law would give oil and gas companies more time to keep drilling and make more money. “They don’t have our best interest at heart,” she said.

The California Independent Petroleum Association said it helped collect signatures in support of the referendum. Its CEO, Rock Zierman, recently said in a statement: “California-produced oil is the most climate-compliant oil in the world.”

California Climate Crisis

The California Climate Crisis Act will require the state to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2045 and to sustain that level into the future. AB 1279, authored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D- Torrance, and then-Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D- Bell Gardens, also provides that the Air Resources Board and the Legislative Analyst’s Office submit reports evaluating the state’s progress toward the goal and list potential areas for improvement.

“The climate crisis is here and now,” Muratsuchi said in a statement after Newsom signed the bill. “This is Code Red for humanity, and we are running out of time to save our planet as we know it.”

Carbon Capture and Storage

SB 905 calls for the Air Resources Board to create a program that evaluates efforts to remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it. By 2025, the board must also establish regulations for building and running carbon capture and removal projects and develop a public database to track their use.

The measure prohibits injecting captured carbon dioxide into an oil well to try and improve oil extraction efforts. It was co-authored by Senators Anna Caballero, D- Merced, and Nancy Skinner, D- Berkeley.

Environmental groups that supported the measure said it was important to put regulations in place to make sure carbon capture and removal technologies were used safely. Those opposing it questioned the technology’s effectiveness and said there were safer ways to remove greenhouse emissions.

Caballero, in statement after the bill passed, said: “Both emissions reduction and carbon capture are absolutely necessary to prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change. SB 905 cements California’s global leadership on climate by enabling rule-making for carbon capture and doing it in a way that safeguards our environment, public health, and at-risk communities.”

More Carbon Removal

The state will also move forward on removing carbon from the air using natural methods under AB 1757. The new measure requires the Natural Resources Agency, and other state agencies, to come up with goals by Jan. 1, 2024 for reducing greenhouse gases using natural resources such as vegetation and soil.

Garcia and Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D- Salinas, authored the bill. Rivas is set to take over as Assembly Speaker next year.

Renewable Energy Target

SB 1020, authored by Senator John Laird, D- Santa Cruz, requires that zero carbon and renewable energy sources make up 90 percent of the state’s electricity by 2035 and 95 percent by 2040.

It also mandates that state agencies use renewable and zero carbon sources for 100 percent of their electricity by 2035.

“We cannot afford to wait for a better time for progress,” Laird said in a statement after Newsom signed the measure, “and the accelerated goals established in SB 1020 reflect this urgency.”

©2022 The Sacramento Bee. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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