California instituted several landmark environmental policies in 2018 and green activists are geared up to keep the momentum growing in 2019.
“I think we will have challenge and opportunity,” said Environment California’s Dan Jacobson, one of Sacramento’s most prominent environmental lobbyists. “There’s a lot of challenge at the federal level while in California we have a lot of opportunity.”
Jacobson’s to-do list includes not just fighting new offshore oil drilling but taking aim at existing oil production in the state. Among other items are ending childhood asthma, continuing the drive against plastic pollution and increasing coastal access for inland people from poorer neighborhoods.
Jacobson, who has been lobbying Sacramento on green issues since 1999, said pushing legislators and regulators for change is just part of the job. Building consensus with those affected by specific proposals can be crucial and coordinating with other environmentalists is also key.
Here are Jacobson’s top eight goals for the new year.
In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law calling for 100-percent fossil fuel-free electricity by 2045, part of the effort to reduce man’s contribution to climate change.
While Jacobson is confident the state will hit the 50-percent mark in 2020 and at least 60 percent by 2030, he’s pushing for a faster timeline to 100 percent. This includes more incentives for solar panels at businesses and making it easier for building owners to sell their excess solar energy to the state’s electrical grid.
“I don’t want people to think ‘incentives’ simply means handing out out money,” he said. “It can mean, ‘Let’s level the playing field.’ Stop rebates and other incentives for projects using fossil fuels, for example. And we could make it much easier to permit offshore wind farms.”
The board in December approved a regulation calling for public-transit bus fleets to be entirely electric by 2040. Jacobson wants to see that requirement extended to school buses.
He’ll also be pushing for better accessibility to electric-vehicle recharging stations, including more stations and free phone apps showing station locations.
Jacobson points to studies that show that children who live or attend school near gas-fueled power plants or heavily traveled roads are more likely to develop asthma than those who don’t. This is an important reason to accelerate the drive toward clean electricity and vehicles, and otherwise minimize children’s exposure to pollution from those sources, he said.
The decline in bee and monarch butterfly population is in large measure the result of pesticides — particularly eonicotineoids — and disappearing habitat, Jacobson said.
“It’s not just about banning any particular pesticide,” he said. “(Farmers) may just come back with another harmful pesticide. It’s how you look at and develop agricultural practices.”
Another objective is get cities and people to grow plants those creatures rely on. “A lot of our environmental goals can be addressed by individual people taking action,” he said.
Offshore oil drilling
With the Trump administration looking at opening new offshore oil leases, Brown last year signed a bill blocking new oil infrastructure on the coast and in state waters. That poses a major deterrent to those eyeing new drilling in the federal waters beyond the 3-mile offshore reach of state jurisdiction.
But environmentalists remain uncomfortable. They’ve helped win resolutions opposing new offshore drilling from at least 65 cities and counties, mostly on the coast.
Jacobson is among those who wants to see that effort expand to non-coastal communities in an effort to increase pressure to not open new leases.
“Loving our ocean is not just something for people on the coast,” he said.
Current oil production
The next step after stopping expansion of oil production is rolling back current drilling and fracking in the state, including establishing a plan for phasing it out entirely, he said.
“California has made enough money from oil drilling and we need to be the leaders to say no more,” he said.
The strategy should include retraining workers in the industry and “public shaming” of extractors who are frequent violators of environmental laws. That pillorying should include larger fines and more publicity of the violations, according to Jacobson.
In 2016, voters upheld a ban on single-use plastic bags and 2018 became the year of the ban on single-use plastic straws, with a version of laws limiting their use approved statewide as well as in a number of cities including Manhattan Beach, Malibu and Long Beach.
Jacobson and others intend to continue expanding the effort to address other plastics that wash down storms drains and out to sea.
For instance, while Manhattan Beach and Long Beach have also banned single-use foam takeout containers, Jacobson would like to see them phased out on a statewide basis.
Jacobson’s interest isn’t simply in physical paths to the beach, but in making sure those who live in poorer inland neighborhoods have the opportunity to experience the coast.
Part of that means affordable transportation to the beach, affordable campgrounds and outreach to the YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs and schools in those neighborhoods. One side effect: grooming a broader population of ocean stewards.
“The root of conservation is personal experience,” he said.
Source: Orange County Register