Governor plans to veto Trump ‘insurance’ bill

Source: By Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, September 16, 2019

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) plans to veto legislation aimed at preserving federal environmental standards in the state as President Trump rolls rules back.

A spokesman for Newsom confirmed that the governor will kill the measure, dubbed “Trump insurance” by the state Senate Judiciary Committee. S.B. 1requires state agencies to adopt rules on the environment, public health and worker safety, at least as strong as federal ones in place Jan. 19, 2017, the day before Donald Trump took office. Provisions would expire at the end of his potential second term in January 2025. The Democratic-controlled Legislature passed the bill last week (Energywire, Sept. 11).

“I fully support the principles behind Senate Bill 1: to defeat efforts by the President and Congress to undermine vital federal protections that protect clean air, clean water and endangered species,” Newsom said in a statement. “Senate Bill 1 does not, however, provide the state with any new authority to push back against the Trump Administration’s environmental policies and it limits the state’s ability to rely upon the best available science to protect our environment.”

The planned veto comes as the state pushes back against Trump on numerous measures. Newsom and other Democratic leaders have framed California, the nation’s most populous state, as a leader in the “resistance” on preserving environmental and other rules. Those include a recent deal between the state and four large automakers on emissions and mileage standards. That agreement prompted the Trump administration to warn California that it’s breaking federal law (Greenwire, Sept. 6).

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), meanwhile, has challenged Trump administration actions with several lawsuits, though those will likely move slowly through the courts.

S.B. 1 has been praised by environmental groups. In a bill analysis prepared before the state Assembly vote, the Natural Resources Defense Council was quoted as saying that California has long enforced tough protection laws “in tandem with federal agency partners. But the Trump administration now threatens that long-standing partnership with ongoing and persistent efforts to weaken or eliminate critical public health and environmental protections.”

There was division over some green issues. Earlier this month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and four Democratic U.S. representatives from the state — Reps. Jim Costa, John Garamendi, T.J. Cox and Josh Harder — sent a letterto Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D), the author of the bill, and Newsom warning the measure could impede voluntary agreements on apportioning water.

S.B. 1 language would require “the Bureau of Reclamation to comply with the California Endangered Species Act,” the letter said. Given a lack of clarity over whether the state could modify “the application of federal law, this provision would generate years of litigation and uncertainty over which environmental standards apply to the Central Valley Project.”

The CVP is the federal allocation of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to counties and farmers.

Meanwhile, the California Chamber of Commerce labeled S.B. 1 a “job killer.”

Newsom said he’d work with Atkins in the Senate “to ensure California can continue to protect our environment and our workers against federal rollbacks, and push back against Trump’s anti-environment agenda — just as California has done on auto emissions.”

Atkins in a statement said that she and Newsom “respectfully disagree regarding S.B. 1.”

“The bill provides the authority to backstop baseline standards when they are rolled back,” Atkins said. “S.B. 1 also clearly states that state agencies shall make determinations based on the best scientific information available.”

She added it’s critical the governor and the state Legislature keep working together to fight “dangerous” federal actions. “Not only must we work to push back against the roll backs that have already been made, we must start preparing now to push back against the next Trump assaults we know will be coming,” Atkins said.