Democratic lawmakers are siding with organized labor in its battle with automaker Tesla, inserting a provision in a last-minute bill to spend $1.5 billion in cap-and-trade money. The package largely spends funds on a variety of anti-pollution programs, such as those to retrofit and replace smog-belching big rigs and buses. But the legislation, amended late Monday to be ready for votes before lawmakers adjourn for the year on Friday, also would inject the state into an increasingly acrimonious union organizing campaign at automaker Tesla’s Fremont plant. Companies that want to be eligible for the state’s zero-emission vehicle rebate program – a major driver of Tesla sales – would need to be certified by the state labor secretary “as fair and responsible in the treatment of their workers.”
Brown has, instead, continued the recent practice of giving big projects with heavyweight support – especially major sports venues – full or partial exemptions from CEQA procedures. The current session, in fact, has still another proposed CEQA break for a proposed arena in Inglewood for the Los Angeles Clippers, which were recently purchased by Steve Ballmer, the billionaire former Microsoft CEO. Meanwhile, another bill would prohibit developers who run afoul of CEQA red tape from seeking project approvals via local ballot measures, as many have done. Tellingly, construction unions that use CEQA as a bludgeon are prime sponsors of the bill. It’s another indication that instead of fiddling with CEQA, and probably making it worse, Brown and the Legislature should overhaul it. If, as Brown says, it is truly “the Lord’s work,” then why aren’t they doing it?
And then there’s the Public Records Act, California’s landmark law giving the public, mostly via news media, access to official documents, with some exceptions. Unfortunately, the list of PRA exceptions seems to be growing as legislators, who are not inclined toward openness in the first place, protect their fellow officials and/or do the bidding of powerful interests. The current session has had 79 bills involving the PRA. While most of the proposals amount to innocuous boilerplate, the Legislature is moving those that create more exceptions and blocking those that would expand access.
Germany has fashioned itself a new brand for the 21st century as the global green leader, but it’s nowhere close to meeting the ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets it set for itself. The German government has targeted a 40 percent reduction of GHG emissions by 2020, as compared to 1990 levels, but with less than three years to go the country remains far from achieving that goal. Berlin already admitted that the 40 percent goal likely wasn’t possible, and instead lowered its sights to a 35 percent reduction, but even that seems unlikely now. A new study from the green think tank Agora Energiewende says Germany is likely to achieve only a 30-31 percent reduction.
It should come as no surprise that when the California Legislature recently began the process of divvying up proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions, a cavalcade of local officials, community activists and lobbyists rushed to Sacramento, with hands out.
Billions of dollars burning a hole in the state’s pocket has that effect on people, and the competition is fierce. Appeals from advocates to fund pet projects were spread over two days in late August, in windowless rooms before sometimes distracted officials. The requests are for cash for electric vehicles, to create green spaces, even for machines to cut pollution from cow manure.
Brevity is prized in this legislative equivalent of speed dating, which plays out in front of committees in the Senate and Assembly. There’s scant time to make the case for your cause. Talk too much, and you risk irritating the panelists. Nobody wants the stink eye from the people with the purse strings.