After Attending Climate Summit, California Governor Gavin Newsom Faces Critical Decisions to Reduce Emissions Back Home

Democrat California Governor Gavin Newsom made waves recently in the climate world by announcing a lawsuit alleging significant gas and oil companies misled the public about the risks fossil fuels pose for global warming. He said he would sign the nation’s most significant emissions reporting rules for large companies.

Gov. Newsom must now make the decision whether to go further. Legislators have sent him bills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, ease the cost to taxpayers for the cleanup of orphan gas and oil wells, and help schools adapt to the changing climate.

When the legislature wrapped up for the year earlier in the month, Newsom touted California’s leadership on environmental issues at the U.N. climate summit in New York. In California, he said climate change has led to “places, lifestyles, and traditions being destroyed right in front of our eyes, despite all of that leadership.”

“If you read the newspaper or turn on your T.V. … you see a state, not just of dreamers and doers, but you see a state that’s burning up,” said Newsom.

Gov. Newsom said he would sign a bill requiring companies with over $1 billion in annual revenue to disclose a broad range of greenhouse gas emissions. He also said he would sign legislation requiring companies that make more than $500 million annually to reveal how climate change can affect business financially and how they plan to adapt. 

Significant climate proposals didn’t pass the legislature this year, including legislation to divest the state’s teacher and public employee retirement system funds from the fossil fuel industry and expand what pollutants must be monitored near refineries.

Newsom has until October 14 to decide whether to sign bills into law, veto them, or allow them to become law without his approval by signature. 

Climate bills not passed by the legislature this year

A proposal to expand a program requiring certain pollutants to be monitored nearby refineries was made into a two-year bill and enabled lawmakers to revisit it in January. The legislation would change the program to include biofuel refineries using materials derived from living things, including plants.

A critical Assembly committee blocked a bill requiring schools to develop a heat reduction plan in campuses’ outside areas, for example, by replacing asphalt with less heat-reducing surfaces earlier this month.

The legislation advocates would have helped to increase shaded areas at schools in low-income regions where they aren’t already abundant. An additional bill requiring the California Energy Commission to create a plan to assist schools with adapting to climate change effects reached the governor’s desk this year.

Democrat State Senator Lena A. Gonzalez, representing part of Los Angeles County, introduced a bill to divest the state’s teacher and public employee retirement systems from the fossil fuel industry. The bill passed the Senate but was not given a hearing in the Assembly. Legislators can take it up again in January.