The 2016 Environmental Legislative Recap: An Unconventional Election Year Defending a Legacy
by Gary Lucks*
The Governor signed 930 new laws during the 2016 legislative sessionâup from 808 in 2015. This elevated level of productivity runs counter to most election years, which typically yield fewer, less far-reaching policies compared to a typical "off-year" election. Approximately ten percent of these new laws pertain to environmental, land use and natural resources.
This batch of legislation is noteworthy for its emphasis on serving disadvantaged communities. Senator Pro tempore Kevin de Leon used his influence to infuse many of these laws with environmental justice considerations. Several other new laws are aimed at managing California’s housing shortage, reforming the operations of the California Public Utilities Commission ("CPUC"). A significant number of laws addressed climate change, including an extension of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (known as "AB 32" [Pavley], Stats 2006) and a focus on short lived climate pollutants ("SLCPs"). Other notable legislation includes an increase in penalties for fraud involving air quality violations, protecting California’s five major watersheds, water conservation policies, upgrading drinking water infrastructure, and a package of significant reforms in the wake of the Aliso Canyon natural gas release. Except for budget-related urgency bills that passed by a supermajority (both of which took effect upon approval), newly enacted laws became effective on January 1, 2017.