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New energy, water laws to impact TID

An energy bill that was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown this month will take him one step closer to achieving two of three of his “ambitious” clean energy, clean air and pollution reduction goals for California before his proposed 2030 deadline.

His proposition, which he discussed during his annual address, included increasing the amount of energy derived from renewable sources from 33 percent to 50 percent, reducing current petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent, and doubling the energy efficiency of existing buildings. 

“Many legislators took that as an opening and rushed to announce sweeping energy legislation, but in the end after a highly political session, only SB 350 was the major energy bill to make it to the governor’s desk,” said Turlock Irrigation District Legislative Analyst Josh Weimer.

During a legislative update that was presented to the TID Board of Directors on Tuesday, Weimer said that Senate Bill 350, introduced by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin De Len (D-Los Angeles) and known as the Clean Energy and Pollution and Reduction Act of 2015, quickly became the landmark bill of the 2015 Legislative Session.

“California is laying the groundwork for a healthier and sustainable future for all our families,” said De Len. “We are showing the world through innovation how we can transition and increase access to renewable energy while cleaning up the air we breathe, especially in our most polluted communities.”

After months of lobbying, Weimer said that the provision to reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent was ultimately removed, which effectively transformed SB 350 into just an energy bill. Brown signed the bill into law earlier this month. 

SB 350 was just one of 2,768 bills that were introduced during the 2015 Legislative Session, which ended on Sept. 11. Of those 2,768 bills, TID staff actively tracked over 250 bills. Brown had until Oct. 11 to either sign or veto each bill, and ultimately 40 bills were signed that have some level of impact on TID.

Concerning water legislation, Brown signed into law SB 13, which was introduced by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) and AB 617, which was introduced by Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno). Both bills aimed to make clear certain Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Procedures following its adoption last year.

“None of the bills that were passed changed TID’s SGMA compliance strategy, but what they did do was provide additional clarification,” said Director of External Affairs Michelle Reimers. “You all know how fast SGMA was passed last session and there was a lot of clarification that needed to be done.”

Additionally, Reimers said that two companion bills that were signed into law will streamline the groundwater adjudication process.

 “With SGMA people realized that groundwater adjudication was going to become more popular and currently the legal process for adjudication takes 15 to 20 years,” said Reimers. “That time frame doesn’t mesh with some of the state mandates for SGMA.”

To address this issue, Pavley introduced SB 226, which was signed into law on Oct. 9. This legislation provides an “expedited, more efficient method for determining the rights of opposing parties to pump groundwater from a shared aquifer.”

“Making groundwater settlements easier to achieve is an essential ingredient for ensuring that the Groundwater Management Act works as planned,” said Pavley. “Among other things, the law requires that each high- and medium-priority basin be run on a sustainable basis.”

SB 226 was paired with Assembly Bill 1390, which was introduced by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) as a bipartisan measure that will also streamline and provide new efficiency to the groundwater adjudication rights process. Along with SB 226, AB 1390 was signed into law on Oct. 9.

“Streamlining the process for how groundwater rights are adjudicated in court was daunting,” said Alejo. “But through countless meetings with the Governor’s office, farmers, water districts and numerous other stakeholders, we were finally able to address the vexing process for how groundwater rights are determined in a fair and bipartisan way.”

Both Weimer and Reimers touched on two-year legislation that will get taken up at the beginning of the 2016 Legislative Session.

 For water, these include AB 647, which would recognize groundwater recharge as a beneficial use, AB 1201, which would require the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to address predation with a scientific method and a plan, and AB 1242, which would require the state board to consider groundwater impacts and avoid or mitigate those impacts before adopting water quality objectives.

Two-year energy legislation includes SB 32, which would set an overarching climate pollution target of 80 percent reductions under 1990 levels by 2050, AB 1330, which stated that all utilities would have to meet a 2 percent annual reduction in energy use every year starting in 2025, and SB 550, which would effectively double a Publicly Owned Utility’s net metering cap.