“After the climate summit, California Governor Gavin Newsom faces pivotal decisions aimed at reducing emissions within the state.
In a recent development, Governor Newsom made significant waves in the field of climate action by announcing a lawsuit alleging that major oil and gas companies had deceived the public regarding the environmental risks posed by fossil fuels. Additionally, he pledged to sign the nation’s most comprehensive emissions reporting regulations for large corporations.
Now, Governor Newsom stands at a crossroads, as lawmakers have presented him with bills designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions from various sectors. These bills encompass initiatives to reduce emissions from buildings, assist schools in adapting to changing climate conditions, and alleviate the financial burden on taxpayers for the cleanup of abandoned oil and gas wells.
Following the conclusion of this year’s legislative session earlier this month, Governor Newsom showcased California’s leadership in environmental matters at a United Nations climate summit held in New York. In his address, he emphasized the visible consequences of climate change in California, including the destruction of landscapes, lifestyles, and traditions.
Governor Newsom pledged his support for a bill that mandates companies with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion to disclose a comprehensive array of greenhouse gas emissions data. He also expressed his intention to sign legislation that requires companies making more than $500 million annually to disclose how climate change could impact their financial operations and their strategies for adaptation.
It is worth noting that certain significant climate proposals failed to secure legislative approval this year. These included measures to expand monitoring of pollutants near refineries and legislation aimed at divesting the state’s public employee and teacher retirement systems from investments in the fossil fuel industry.
Governor Newsom has until October 14th to make decisions regarding these bills, which may involve signing them into law, vetoing them, or allowing them to become law without his signature.
One of the key proposals passed by the Legislature concerns orphaned oil and gas wells. This bill mandates that companies obtaining operational rights for a well must demonstrate their financial capability to fund the well’s cleanup. One method for meeting this requirement is by posting a bond to cover the entire cost of well closure.
California currently grapples with over 5,000 orphaned wells, lacking an active owner to ensure proper sealing and closure. These abandoned wells pose environmental and public health risks, including the potential contamination of drinking water. The state previously required companies to post cleanup bonds, but these often fell short of covering the full cost, according to Ann Alexander, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Critics of the bill argue that it may impose onerous energy efficiency standards on housing providers.
In addition to these developments, a bill has been forwarded to Governor Newsom, necessitating state regulators to devise a strategy for curbing emissions that contribute to global warming from buildings. This sector accounts for roughly one-fourth of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to state estimates, emanating from sources such as electricity consumption within buildings and the use of refrigerants for cooling purposes.
As part of its broader goal to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, the state intends to reduce emissions from residential, commercial, and other structures. Under this legislation, the California Energy Commission will be tasked with presenting a report to the Legislature in 2026, outlining recommendations for the state’s next actions in lowering building-related emissions.
However, critics of the bill argue that it may impose onerous energy efficiency standards on housing providers.
Regarding climate bills that were not enacted this year, a proposal to extend a program mandating the monitoring of specific pollutants in proximity to refineries has been deferred as a two-year bill, allowing lawmakers to revisit it in January. This proposed legislation would expand the program to include biofuel refineries, which produce fuel from plant-derived materials and other organic sources.
Furthermore, a significant development occurred as a crucial Assembly committee recently blocked a bill that would have required schools to formulate heat reduction plans for outdoor areas on campuses. These plans might involve replacing heat-absorbing surfaces like asphalt with alternatives. Advocates argue that this legislation could have bolstered the availability of shaded areas in schools, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas where such spaces are lacking. A separate bill requiring the California Energy Commission to develop a plan to help schools adapt to the effects of climate change reached Governor Newsom’s desk this year.
State Senator Lena A. Gonzalez, a Democrat representing parts of Los Angeles County, introduced a bill aimed at divesting the state’s public employee and teacher retirement systems from investments in the fossil fuel industry. Although the bill passed the Senate, it did not receive a hearing in the Assembly. Lawmakers will have the opportunity to reconsider this proposal in January.”
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