Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Spring 2014, Vol. 23, No. 1

California’s "Magic" Number: Nine Goals for 2020 and Where We May Go From There

by Ryan Waterman* and Parissa Ebrahimzadeh**


Environmental lawyers are familiar with aspirational, technology-forcing goals set into law. The federal Clean Water Act amendments of 1972 called for the elimination of the "discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters" by 1985, and the federal Clean Air Act amendments of 1970 sought to set and achieve national ambient air quality standards by 1975.1 While neither law achieved its ambitious goals, they set our nation firmly on a course toward cleaner water and air.

California is no stranger to legislating aspirational goals tied to future dates. Most recently, it seems to have found some magic in the year 2020, which is the state’s target for achieving an unusually large number of cutting-edge, nation-leading goals, ranging from significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and trash diversion from landfills, to urban water use reductions and the use of e-books in college classrooms.

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