[env-trinity] SF Chronicle Editorial: Newsom on wrong side of environmental bill
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Wed Sep 18 16:25:02 PDT 2019
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SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
OPINION // EDITORIALS
Editorial: Newsom on wrong side of environmental bill
Chronicle Editorial Board Sep. 16, 2019 Updated: Sep. 16, 2019 4:31 p.m.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom talks with reporters at his office in Sacramento, Calif. Newsom announced Saturday, Sept. 14, he will buck Democratic legislative leaders by vetoing legislation aimed at stopping the Trump administration from weakening oversight of longstanding federal environmental laws in California. His announcement came less than a day after lawmakers approved the bill on the chaotic final day of the year's legislative session. Newsom said in a statement he fully supports the aims of the bill but argued it wouldn't give California new authority to push back on the Trump administration.
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
Gov. Gavin Newsom has signaled that he will veto the most significant environmental protection bill to emerge from the California Legislature this past session: Senate Bill 1, a measure tailored to safeguard the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta from water grabs if, as expected, the Trump administration weakens the Endangered Species Act.
The governor who fancies himself as a leader of the resistance to Trump administration policies that undermine this state’s laws and violate its values needs to reconsider his position on SB1.
His Saturday message startled and outraged the environmental groups that thought they had achieved victory just hours earlier when the measure cleared both houses of the Legislature.
SB1 had become known as the “Trump Insurance Bill” because it would inoculate environmental, public health and worker safety protections from being gutted by the 45th president. It would preserve those protections by immediately adopting into state law the regulations the Trump administration weakened. The bill, authored by Senate leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would be set to expire on Jan. 20, 2025, Trump’s last possible day in office.
The bill was considered especially critical to environmental groups because of the president’s stated intention to divert more delta-bound water to farmers through the federal Central Valley Project. The impact on salmon, steelhead and orcas could be devastating if species protection is obliterated by the new policy.
The lineup of advocates and opponents is revealing. Just about all the big-name environmental and fishing groups were on board, along with labor and health organizations.
Opponents included the Trump administration, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, oil companies and the agricultural interests including the giant Westlands Water District that has never been shy about exerting its clout with powerful politicians.
So why did Newsom end up on the wrong side of the issue?
His message, in which he implied but did not explicitly declare an intent to veto, contained an element of doublespeak that we hope will not become a trademark of his tenure.
Newsom said he fully supports “the principles behind Senate Bill 1: to defeat efforts by the president and Congress to undermine vital federal protections that protect clean air, clean water and endangered specials.”
And then he got murky. He claimed the bill does not “provide the state with any new authority to push back against the Trump administration’s environmental policies.” Yet, that is exactly what SB1 does. It means the federal Central Valley Project would need to comply with state environmental law no matter what Trump does to species protection.
In his even odder argument — the one pushed by the opponents trying to get more delta water diversions — Newsom suggested SB1 “limits the state’s ability to rely upon the best available science to protect our environment.” Nonsense. In fact, the bill expressly declares that state protections in response to federal rollbacks must be “based on the best scientific and other information that is reasonably available.”
While it is true that the Central Valley Project has followed state law through past administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, there is no guarantee that the Trump administration will continue to do so — not with his intent to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, and his open contempt for fisheries protection as expressed in a 2016 campaign rally in Fresno in which he suggested farmers were being victimized by “insane” policies in which regulators were “shoving the water out to sea.”
This is not just about fish versus people. It’s about preventing a water grab. It’s noteworthy that the East Bay Municipal Utilities District is among the supporters of SB1.
The governor needs to take a fresh look at SB1 — and sign it into law.
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