California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s aggressive plans to accelerate green energy projects statewide were dealt a blow by Democrats in the state’s legislature.
The California Senate Budget Committee voted 3-0 Thursday to delay consideration of a sweeping climate package Newsom proposed a week earlier that he argued is crucial to achieve his lofty climate goals, local outlet CalMatters reported. The legislation would speed up construction of energy projects, streamline permitting and expedite court reviews of environmental challenges.
“Although today we are rejecting the governor’s trailer bill proposals based on process, as seven days is insufficient to vet the hundreds of pages of policy nuance in these proposals, we look forward to working with the administration on all of these critical issues,” Democratic state Sen. Josh Becker, the chair of the committee, said after the vote, according to CalMatters.
Becker and other committee members signaled they would be supportive of efforts to cut red tape and ensure swift approval of key green energy projects via amending the California Environmental Quality Act as Newsom proposed. However, legislative procedures would have required lawmakers to fast-track the package to be passed by early June.
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During a press conference Thursday, Newsom reiterated the need for permitting reform in the state.
“I was in Patterson, California, a couple of days ago – 13th year they’re working on a solar battery project – 13 years. I mean, it’s absurd. I’m for process but not that nonsense. It’s been abused,” he told reporters at a clean energy event. “We laid out permitting, 11 specific bills last week to reduce permitting time by three years, documents by hundreds of thousands.”
“If we don’t build, democracy is questioned, our capacity to deliver. Why do you think so many of these authoritarians are asserting themselves and their might and their muscle – not just around the world, but in some other parts of this country? It’s because they say we can’t get things done anymore.”
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According to Newsom’s office, his proposal would expedite key projects that “meet the state’s ambitious economic, climate and social goals.” The package would specifically seek to advance hundreds of solar, wind and battery storage projects; rail construction projects; clean transportation projects; and semiconductor factories.
Last year, Newsom set goals of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 85%, cutting oil usage by 94%, and deploying vastly more solar and wind capacity over the next two decades. And he is pushing for the state to develop a power grid that is completely reliant on “clean electricity” by 2045.
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However, his recent permitting reform proposal has received significant pushback from environmental organizations that argue it would decrease protections for wildlife and ecosystems across California. Led by the Defenders of Wildlife, 75 eco groups blasted Newsom for attempting to rush the package through the legislature, in a letter Monday.
“Defenders of Wildlife is gravely concerned that the Newsom administration is rushing major policy changes through a closed-door process that effectively sidelines meaningful public engagement and transparency,” Pamela Flick, the California program director at Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement.
“While we strongly support investing in climate resilience, it’s imperative that such investments be made in an equitable, transparent manner that does not undermine fundamental environmental laws or proper public process.”